Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter Brown and Gray

The Blue Jay Barrens landscape has taken on what I think of as its winter appearance. With the exception of the evergreen species, the colors have become dominated by browns and grays. Even so, there’s still a brightness and freshness about all of the plants.

The grasses and forbs are still standing upright and all display a strength that makes you believe they could stand forever. Four months of rain, snow, wind and animals will certainly change the look. In late March I’ve seen this field look as though the circus had just packed up and left. The type of winter weather we experience this year will determine the look of the field.

Leaf fall and my clearing efforts now make it possible to view the series of prairie patches. Light brown for prairies and grays for the trees. Eventually, I’ll reach the point where the prairies are connected by a series of open passages.

In a year of normal rainfall, all of the cedars would be bright green at this point. Varying degrees of drought stress has left them ranging in color from green to yellow to brown. Position on the landscape has greatly influenced the amount of rainfall available to the tree and the resulting color change. The brown tree near the center of the photo sits directly atop a watershed break and had the least amount of available moisture in the line.

Viewing a block of cedars shows the same variation in colors among the stand. The resulting color pattern is partly due to individual tree genetics, but the microclimate at the site of each tree has had the most effect.

We’ve had nearly five inches of rain during the last two weeks, so soil moisture is much improved. The water won’t do much to improve the cedar color unless the temperatures are high enough to allow for photosynthetic activity. Cedars typically lose some of their green color during the winter, so the already off color trees could really look afflicted if we have an extremely cold winter.

Rain and winds have stripped most of the oak leaves from the trees. Oaks often retain their leaves long into the winter which makes the woods seem more substantial. Things just seem to be too open and exposed for early December. I just get the feeling that I’m going to be looking at the browns and grays for an awfully long time.


  1. Yes, everything looks more and more like Winter. Soon there will be snow on those evergreens to change the view.

  2. It sounds like the snow will be here tomorrow to change that view. When we get too much white, I start wishing we were back to brown and gray.