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Skyline - Houston, Texas

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Pt 2 Fall Foliage in Texas

Here on the Gulf Coast we have little in the way of the magnificent Fall color that our more northernly neighbors enjoy. Our only dependable source is the ubiquitous Chinese Tallow Tree, often classified as a pest and a "weed" tree. It is an invasive, prolific foreign species but frequently used in landscaping. If we get an early frost, the Chinese Tallow rewards us with beautiful color. Otherwise, like our other deciduous trees, they merely turn their leaves yellowish, then brown, and fall to make a raking chore.

Considering their marvelous Fall color (sometimes) and the shade they offered to my patio, I tolerated two Tallows that hung over my redwood fence. Their drawback was a profuse rain of yellow pollen and spent flowers in the Spring and an equally profuse rain of blackish seed pods in the Fall, both of which made a horrid mess on my patio and in my fountain.

Tallow blossoms
tallow seed pods
One year grandson Gene worked with me several hours cleaning the drifts of pollen and blossom mess off the patio and scrubbing the filth out of my huge fountain. Gene noticed that the tree continued to drop spent blossoms, repeating the mess we had just cleaned away. An experienced Mother/Grandmother, I knew that any time a child is absent and quiet for a time usually spells mischief. I looked out the back door and nearly had a heart attack. The little scoundrel was high in a tree with his grandfather's arbor saw and had diligently sawed off every limb from each of the trees. They looked like twin giant toothpicks sticking up in the air. "Boy, Grandma! They ain't gonna drop any more flowers now!" Nor offer any summer shade, nor Fall color, nor drop any seed pods that year!

But given an early frost, we do get Fall color from these lovely but aggravating little trees. Early frost in this sub-tropical climate is not guaranteed.
Tallow-turning color

Tallow-fall color

tallow fall color (Japan)

If the Chinese Tallow fails us or if we crave more Fall color, we may take a several hundred mile trip to Lost Maples state park in central Texas. Maples !? In Texas? Yes, remnant populations of the ancient Maples, relatives to the Sugar Maple.

ancient history of bigtooth maples
(excerpt:)The ancestors of modern bigtooth maples were thriving in Texas during the last Ice Age some 10,000 years ago, when ice sheets advanced across North America before retreating. Scattered stands of the trees still survive in sheltered canyons in Central and West Texas.

As the continent's ice sheets shrunk northward during the beginning of the Holocene Epoch at the end of the Pleistocene, [...] the climate began to warm up and dry out. Pockets of the relict tree species were left behind primarily in the cool, moist, shaded canyons of the Sabinal and Frio rivers in Bandera, Real and Uvalde counties, and the mountains of West Texas. [...][...]A state natural area near Vanderpool - Lost Maples - pays tribute to this tenacious hardwood whose colorful fall foliage draws tens of thousands of leaf-peepers each fall.

Big Toothed Maples - Fall foliage

weekly fall foliage report of the bigtooth maples w/photos Click on link for updates. Current update - click on link. Colors more intense than below , now at peak).

TPWD photos taken on 10/29/08 by John Stuart (Maples beginning to turn. Need a little more cool weather, hopefully a frost.)
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Gallery of northern Fall Foliage on post below. Beautiful!


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