One of the striking things I noticed on the CNPA Foothills Outing on Saturday was the amount of color that was showing. And most of the color was not from wildflowers, at least not yet. Most of the color I noticed was from new leaves beginning to replenish the forest canopy, many times in hues of reds that challenge the fall colors displayed by these same trees. These new maple leaves, for example, will soon spread over the tree and turn it into a monochrome green as the chlorophyll develops, masking the red pigments which strut their stuff just now in the new red leaves. We won’t see these red pigments again until fall, when the production of green chlorophyll falls off and the underlying colors show through.
I found this maple seedling last Saturday growing out of a decaying stump, from a niche where the winged maple seed must have landed a year ago in its flight from the parent tree. This seedling is laced with the red pigments common to this species which will later produce “oohs” and “aahs” from streams of leaflookers on the Blue Ridge Parkway. These trees have two seasons to show their colors, but most people only know them in the fall when their huge canopies splash reds and yellows across the slopes of the Appalachians. Some of us are fortunate to know these trees and their colors in the spring, when new leaves are sprouting and showing their characteristic colors before the chlorophyll has turned them all green. Get out and take a close look around. You will be amazed at what you can see!