Maples at the Edge of a Pond

Maples at the Edge of a Pond

32 x 24 in | 81.3 x 61cm

The subtle range of colors of these trees and their reflections in this little pond caught my attention. Often fall colors can be gaudy in their dramatic contrasts, but there was a peaceful softness to this scene created by the blending of a range of muted colors and by the fine twigs of the shrubs.

Judging from across the pond, the trees appeared to be sugar maples (Acer saccharum) and I didn’t wade across the pond to check them out. But through my binoculars the leaves had the classic sugar maple shape. It was a bit unusual to see sugar maples so close to the water. They prefer dryer sites while their close cousins, the red maples (Acer rubrum), often called “swamp maples”, can tolerate wetter sites. I’m guessing that the little seedlings with the flaming red leaves at the very edge of the pond are red maples. At the water’s edge they would have a competitive advantage.

Click for detail.

Sugar maples can turn a range of colors from yellow through orange and red but usually at each site the trees display similar colors because they are all subjected to the same temperature changes and sun. But in this place every tree seemed to be a different color. The answer may have to do with their proximity to water. Flooding will stress trees and stress can affect the color of the leaves. A few feet above the bank may make a huge difference to a tree.

The rust colored shrubs at the bank of the pond are surely Sweetgale (Myrica gale). The foliage has been used as an insect repellent to keep biting insects out of tents. First Nations people used it as a condiment to flavor meats. This is a plant that is completely at home near the water in the north, both in North America and Europe. It can grow in nitrogen poor bogs because it has nitrogen-fixing bacteria on its roots. And it is very cold hardy. It grows in northern US, Alaska and in every province in Canada right up to the Arctic Circle.

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