Phenology: Timing is Everything

Being a beginner naturalist means learning the answers to lots of what, why, where, and how questions. What is a lichen? Why do bugs gather around streetlights? Where do you go if you want to spot a kingfisher? How do trees move their seeds to new locations? But we tend to overlook questions of when. Nature is dynamic, things are …

Is it better not to rake your leaves?

Trees, shrubs, and other plants make a lot of mess when they drop their leaves in the fall. All of the leaves, twigs, branches, and other plant matter can pile up quickly over the course of a year. Within a few weeks or months it can cover a well-groomed lawn. Biologists and naturalists call all this mess “leaf litter”. Although …

Why are there suddenly so many bugs in my house?

Even if you like spiders and insects, it can be unsettling when they show up at home. It is always worth knowing whether or not bugs in your house could potentially be harmful. However, most invertebrates in our homes are pretty harmless. Despite what profit-driven exterminator and pest control companies would like you to think!  Nonetheless, when a handful are …

Fall Foliar Fruit Flagging: Are trees talking to us?

The dramatic color changes of autumn leaves in some parts of the world are captivating, seemingly magical, and widely appreciated. Dazzling reds and oranges pop up every year while we’re planning our Halloween costumes or breaking out a flannel shirt. Plant scientists (called botanists) are working to understand why these gorgeous displays happen. But there is more to the story: …

Why do trees lose their leaves in the fall?

Why do trees lose their leaves in the fall? For people living in temperate or northern climates, the Autumnal transition into winter usually involves lots and lots of leaves. Leaves turning beautiful colors, leaves blowing in the wind, leaves covering the ground, crunching under foot, or being raked into huge piles or blown away by landscaping crews. Trees lose their …

Why do trees turn colors in the fall?

The most iconic sign of autumn is the turning of the leaves. But why do the trees turn colors? If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with dramatic “fall colors”, then you’ve experienced the incredible beauty of landscapes painted with dazzling reds, oranges, and yellows.  Poets from all over the world have described this sudden, incredible transformation with over-the-top language …