I certainly didn’t grow up with Autumn colors like this in Sydney, which is why I am in such awe when I get the chance to see them now. Acadia National Park was the perfect destination for a weekend getaway to see peak foliage colors painted across the most stunning scenery. This glorious day was the ideal combination of warm golden sun and chilly air – the best hiking weather. Climbing the steep Beehive Trail to the top of this small mountain provided an incredible vantage point with which to admire Mother Nature’s artwork. As a person who lives for color, even I could not have imagined that this many brilliant and intense colors could exist in a single landscape. Just incredible!
I came across this tiny Autumn colored tree growing in Central Park and it reminded me of a bonsai. I’ve read that the purpose of a bonsai is to evoke contemplation in the viewer. Looking at this tree, I couldn’t help but think how amazing it is that a seed managed to grow in such an unlikely place. This tree will forever have to grow against the odds, fight for the chance to survive, and I will wholeheartedly cheer it on. Why? Because I always fight for the underdog, I lend my strength to those who are overlooked, I protect people from bullies….. That is who I am!
So this past weekend I woke up and realized I had completely missed Autumn. I remember at the start of Autumn (when the weather was still warm) I had this fun idea that I wanted to hire bicycles and ride from Manhattan to Randall’s Island (not that far away from where I live) and have a wonderful picnic on the water under the sun. Randall’s Island is a beautiful little area covered with green grass and flower gardens along the water. Mind you I don’t actually enjoy riding a bike, and absolutely hate doing it on Manhattan streets when taxi drivers are actively trying to kill you, but I thought the picnic worth the ride. So this weekend I decided that my husband and I absolutely must do this before the weather got any colder (8 degrees Celsius, 46 degrees Fahrenheit is by no means warm!). So we hired bikes and rode one block to the bike lane on First Avenue which to my dismay was closed for construction. We rode two more blocks to Riverside Park which has a paved bike path….also closed for construction (typical Manhattan). Even having only rode three blocks my ungloved hands were already frozen and I was in no mood for a picnic, especially not on a cold and unwelcoming island where the trees have been stripped of their leaves, leaving an expanse of colorless concrete (wow, it’s incredible how weather can change your mood so quickly!). So we walked the bikes back to the store, sheepishly returning them after only 15 minutes, and went back to our warm home and I sat down and painted Autumn instead.
The Autumn season is upon us, and many trees in Manhattan are showing signs of changing color. Have you ever wondered how the trees know what season it is? Many trees and plants are photoperiodic, meaning they can detect the hours of darkness in a 24 hour period. In this way, trees and plants can detect the lengthening of nights into winter or shortening of nights heading into summer. This clever ability is achieved through pigments within the leaves called phytochromes, which can trigger a cascade of specific hormones and growth factors which regulate growth, flowering, and changes in leaf color during autumn. Leaves produce chlorophyll throughout most of the year, a green pigment critical for photosynthesis which allows trees and plants to absorb energy from light. Chlorophyll masks other pigments present within the leaf such as carotenes and xanthophyll, which are responsible for orange and yellow coloring, respectively. As the length of night increases during autumn, it triggers a cork-like membrane to form around the base of the leaf stalk called an abscission. The abscission slowly cuts off the supply of nutrients to the leaf, thus limiting the production of chlorophyll and allowing the orange and yellow colors to be visible. Anthocyanin is also produced in autumn, which gives leaves a red and purple coloring. Eventually nutrients to the leaves are completely halted causing the leaves to fall off. After accumulating a certain amount of time in the cold during winter months, which is referred to as the number of chill hours, trees can then respond to the increasingly warmer temperatures and shorter nights of Spring. During this time there is an upregulation of genes responsible for producing antioxidants and vitamin C to rid the tree of hydrogen peroxide which has built up during the winter dormancy. Trees are now able to produce the hormones and growth factors necessary to begin flowering and making new leaves again. Happy Autumn Everyone!
To see my other post on Autumn in New York, please click here.
This painting is inspired by the Autumn colors seen while hiking at Bear Mountain in New York. Late in the season, rich redish-browns signify the last of the falling leaves and the peak of the leaf litter covering the ground like freshly laid carpet.
Central Park in Autumn provides a photograph with stunning colors. A photograph made even more beautiful with the reflection of colors in the tranquil water of The Lake. After moving from Sydney, Australia to New York over a year ago, I have now witnessed each of the changing seasons. Such a stark contrast in seasonal colors is something Sydney dwellers cannot appreciate in such a temperate climate. In summer this lake is filled with so many tourists, they cannot paddle their boats without knocking into each other. Autumn colors however are short lived, and very soon this image will be replaced by naked trees and gloomy winter days. We spend these days dreaming of the blossoming Spring to come.