Ok, so I didn’t get the previous photos’ locations out on Friday – still catching up from a month-long trip through parts of southwestern U.S. – but better late than never. I missed watching New England’s patchwork of trees change from multiple greens to vibrant yellows, oranges, reds, and browns (I also missed the first light basil-nipping frost which my family reports happened about October 10), but I was happy to see showy October colors in parts of Colorado. With some adjustments to the raw, straight-out-of-the-camera photos in my previous post, Colorado’s colors show more accurately.
Elevation plays a major role in what grows where in southern and western Colorado. Most of late October’s color in Mesa Verde National Park comes from extensive thickets of Gambel oaks (Quercus gambelii) growing, at elevations from about 6500 to 8000 feet, in a range of sizes. Some of these oaks stood only a couple of feet tall and spread four or five feet wide while others grew taller and wider. The brick oranges and rusty browns of those shown here stood out beautifully against the bank of white clouds drifting by and partially blocking the view of distant hills and mesas.
A few minutes later the area was nearly completely shrouded in clouds. Still, the oak’s bronzy browns reminded me of the autumn colors of Connecticut’s much larger oaks.
Elsewhere, at elevations from about 8000 to 9500 feet, aspen (Populus tremuloides) yellows glow. Here, golden aspen leaves stand out against frost-coated Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii). When viewed from a greater distance the aspens look like masses of bright yellow sunshine. Occasionally I spotted a red-orange maple that broke up the masses of gold and deep green.
In other spots, aspen had dropped their leaves leaving just striking white bark to contrast against the fir’s dark green.
Just a few hundred feet higher, at about 10,000 feet, golden clouds of aspen no longer grow, leaving just deep forest greens.
Many thanks to Debbie and Laurrie for their previous comments, and to Debbie (A Garden of Possibilities) and Cyndy (Gardening Asylum) for helping me out with guest posts during my absence. Watch for more photos and plant observations gathered during my southwest travels.