Oscar Wilde has a beautiful quote that captures autumn: ‘And all at once, summer collapsed into fall…’. It is the season of winter preparations, changes, and slowing down.
You might be surprised to learn that our changing seasons are not caused by the Earth’s proximity to the sun (Earth is closest to the sun on January the 4th and furthest away on July the 5th!). It is the 23.44° tilt of our planet’s axis that causes the seasons. In winter, the northern hemisphere is further away from the sun, causing shorter days and colder temperatures in Ireland.
In autumn, traditionally known as the ‘Harvest Season’, animals forage nature’s bounty to prepare for the lean winter months. There is a final flurry of activity in the animal kingdom: native Red deer mate, the last salmon run up the rivers to spawn, grey seal pups are born, and it is a good time to spot dolphins, porpoises, and whales off the Irish coast.
In our Woodland, the most noticeable autumnal change is the discolouration and shedding of leaves. Leaves produce the ‘food’ (glucose) for trees through photosynthesis with the help of chlorophyll (that makes the leaves look green). In autumn, trees start to shut down their food production system as there is not enough light available for photosynthesis. The production of chlorophyll is reduced and hidden pigments of yellow, red, and orange in the leaves appear.
Finally, the trees shed their leaves. This way, trees can preserve the moisture in their branches and trunks, reduce their energy demand, and better survive winter storms. The fallen leaves, fruit and nuts are a vital winter food source for animals and insects.
Because trees go dormant in winter, the months of November to March are the perfect time to plant trees! Now you know what to plan for the winter months!