Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Autumn leaves from a Florida wetland

Autumn in Florida can be a subtle season, but the signs are there if one pays attention.  Autumn is my favorite season, and I particularly like plants, so I tend to notice those changes most.  Here are just a few of the things I notice around me in the southwestern part of our state:

• There are more yellow flowers blooming, but also some purple and lavenders.
• We're enjoying lower humidity and less rainfall.
• Acorns and pine cones are ripening and dropping to the ground, attracting birds and squirrels.
• The red maple leaves have tinges of red – when they fall they often take on beautiful colors of scarlet, burgundy, and gold.
• A few more oak leaves and pine needles on the ground.
• I see more grasses with seed heads, especially broom sedge, which has turned a beautiful yellow ochre hue.
• We have cooler temperatures that come in waves with each new cold front.
• Some of the bald cypress needles are turning a delightful rusty red-yellow color.
• Berries are ripening: most recently I’ve noticed Dahoon holly and marlberry.
• The colors of the sky are different than summer – now they are a cooler blue. The sunsets are different, too, with clearer skies and deeper colors.
• I notice more flocks of birds in the air.
• Some of the ponds and lakes have lower water levels.

I discovered the leaves above on a walk along the boardwalk at Freedom Park (here in Naples, Florida) and knew that I needed to paint them.  This section of the park is an old wetland area with red maple, laurel oak, bald cypress, pond apple, pop ash, royal palm, and red mangrove trees – some of them fairly mature. 

There is still water in these wetlands, but areas that were wet are now merely damp, and sections that were damp are now dry.  Scattered among the trees are understory shrubs and young trees and water-loving flags and grasses. 

What have you noticed about your surroundings? During busy holiday times, we sometimes forget to look around us and enjoy the changing theater of our environment. As artists, naturalists, and humans, observation is a primary force of being.  Observing nature can be a wonderful way to relax and relieve stress, center ourselves within place, and entertain our senses.

Clicking on the caption below the image will take you to that page on my Flickr photostream.

Parents and teachers – please use the link below for a free PDF coloring page of the leaves above (with names):
Coloring page, Florida wetland leaves