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Poor Will's Almanack: October 16 - 22, 2018

ginko leaves in the fall
Antonio Trogu
Flickr Creative Commons

The leafturn and leafdrop of Middle Fall accelerate with the prospects for frost, and the relative stability of early October comes apart.

By the end of the week, most of the ashes, buckeyes, box elders, and black walnuts will be close to gone. Foliage barriers around your property may disappear completely. Shagbark hickory, chinquapin oak, tree of heaven and great shrub-like pokeweeds are thinning out. There is a steady drizzle of locust leaves.

Elms, sweet gum, sassafras, sycamores, and magnolias lose all their summer pigmentation three years out of four. Heavier frosts often quicken the hues. Locust and hickory trees reach their finest color and then shed suddenly in the cold waves that sweep more violently across the Great Plains.

When those leaves come down, high mapleturn moves all across the northern half of the nation, producing some of the brightest oranges and scarlets of the season. Milkweed pods burst,  the final flowers go to seed, and frost season moves against the tomatoes and green peppers.

Following a hard freeze, and among the most spectacular doorways between Middle Autumn and Late Autumn is the collapse of the foliage of the ginkgo tree. Often after a cold spell in late October or early November, the ginkgo leaves turn deep gold all at once, and then in a day or so, they shatter suddenly into a gilded coverlet of the ground below.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the third  week of Middle Fall. In the meantime, look for a ginkgo tree, wait for its leaves to shatter in the frost.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.