A Sunny Morning in Late October

The early morning sun was shining and there was a combination of dew and frost on the ground when I arrived at Detroit’s Eliza Howell Park on October 28, 2019. Here are a few images from the next three hours.

Bittersweet on Oak Tree

Bittersweet vines grow high on some trees in the park, most noticeable when the leaves of the vine turn yellow.

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Dew Drop on Sumac

In the blow up, one can clearly see the reflections.

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Three Hundred Year Old Bur Oak Tree

I stopped by a massive Bur Oak that has been estimated to be over 300 years old.

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Rouge River from Footbridge

I often take a picture from this spot, looking upstream. The look of the river changes with the season, the sunlight/clouds, and the water level.

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A Walk in the Woods

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Sugar Maple

Several Sugar Maple trees, seen from the park road, have inspired park visitors to pull out their cameras.

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A Favorite Cottonwood

There are some trees, friends, that I stop by to visit to see how they are doing. This Cottonwood tree is one.

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In my records, this is Walk # 1351. Another good one.

 

Sugar Maple: A “Leaf Peeping” Walk

When asked recently what my favorite kind of tree is, I said that it depends on the season. Different trees attract me at different times of the year. Twice a year – in March and in late October – the Sugar Maple is at or near the top of my list of favorites in Eliza Howell Park.

In March, it is “sugaring” time (see “Maple Sap Rising,” March 13, 2018); now the leaves demand attention.

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A number of Sugar Maples are found near the park road. The leaves are thick and the branches hang low. (It is a good tree to duck under to wait out a brief rain.) When the leaves turn in the fall, they can be yellow or pink or red, often on the same tree.

Note the variety of colors of the leaves on the ground here, all from the same tree.

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Each fall I check the next two Sugar Maples, growing side by side, to see how both the colors and the time of leaf drop differ.

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These close-up pictures of Sugar Maple leaves, still on the trees, are put together for easy comparison.

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Sugar Maples, native to Northeast North America, are one of the featured trees on many fall foliage viewing (“leaf peeping”) tours in New England and the upper Midwest.

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Healthy Sugar Maples can grow to over 100 feet tall and live up to 300 – 400 years.

Using a method of estimating the age of a tree based on its circumference (a method to be described more fully in the next post), I estimated that the Sugar Maple pictured below is about 180 years old. This means that it began to grow here about the time Michigan became a state.

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The Eliza Howell Sugar Maples mean tasty maple syrup to a number of park neighbors, but that is only one way in which they contribute to the natural beauty and fascinating features of the park.

Maple Sap Rising

There is a little different look in Eliza Howell Park at this time of the year. Some 8 trees have sap collection buckets (or plastic bags) attached.

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The trees, of course, are maple trees and the sap is collected (in most cases) to boil down to syrup. Syrup can be made from the sap of different species of maple trees, but the preferred is clearly the Sugar Maple, because of the higher sugar content of Sugar Maple sap.

Even with Sugar Maples trees, however, making maple syrup is not easy. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup (or 10 gallons of sap to make 1 quart of syrup). Depending upon the conditions, a little or quite a lot of sap can be collected in one day.

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In southeastern Michigan, it is usually early March when the sap starts to flow, the best conditions being nighttime temperatures below freezing and daytime temperatures above – just the kind of weather that we have been having lately. The sap freezes when exposed to freezing temperatures.

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Rising sap is a clear indication that maple winter dormancy is over. The process of new growth is beginning. The time to stop “sugaring” is when the temperatures are above freezing overnight or when the buds start to break open. As of now, the buds are not yet opening; they still appear as they did throughout the winter.

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I have commented in other posts on Eliza Howell Park edibles like raspberries and hickory nuts. Maple sap is the edible that can be found in March.