the lives of the leaves …

Alongside my driveway stand two red maples. I am fond of these trees. When I bought my home a decade ago, they were arboreal toddlers. Now they are strapping young adults, proudly dominating my backyard. They are hardy. They have to be, given that they face strong westerly winds in winter that roar up treeless terrain downhill from the house. They are colorful and tend to show up neighboring oaks and pines and birches. Their leaves turn their characteristic rich, brilliant red later than most trees in the valley below gain their timid yellows and browns. My maples are professional showoffs.

Last winter I took the photograph at right of a budding branchlet encased in ice. I posted it here and many people indicated they liked it. As winter ran its course, an idea dawned (I have so few, y’know.) I decided to photograph the life cycle of this little budding branch. I marked the branchlet with a twist tie.

I made errors. The most significant was the choice of the branchlet to shoot. I did not figure in the changing path of the sun over three seasons. Thus surrounding leaves kept my selected branchlet in shadow through much of the summer. Not until a few weeks ago did light from the sun actually reach my little branchlet. By then, only four leaves — one quite small — remained.

What you’ll see after the jump is the emergence of seeds, leaves (I think the branchlet had seven at one point), their growth, their attack by mites, bugs, and other ailments and, I had hoped, their final fall. But last week, my hilltop endured nearly two days of winds gusting to 50 miles per hour. The two trees lost most of their foliage before leaves reached that pinnacle of red that gives rise to the trees’ name. I’ll try again next year, I suppose, having learned some lessons this time. (And yes, I kept my twitchy fingers off those saturation sliders for this series. I’ll resume my bad habits on the morrow.)
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