Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sourwoods, Maples and Milkweed Bugs

Fall finally arrived in late October. Some of the trees show evidence of drought but I still find quite a bit of color.

The foliage of Sourwood trees first turns orange and then maroon--true Hokie colors (I was a professor at Virginia Tech and longtime football fan). Some trees started turning early in September, with their leaves already dropped.

But, those in the forest, tucked under the hickory and oak trees are in full color this past week (photo October 20)

Most sourwood trees have turned maroon by the end of October (photo October 27).

The sourwood trees bloom in late June through the end of July. Last month, I bought sourwood honey from a local beekeeper about 5 miles from where we live. I wondered if some of his bees came to our land to collect nectar this summer.

For a long time, I tried to identify the maple trees on our land. Finally, I collected leaves of two different trees and laid them side by side.

The red maple, on the left, has coarsely toothed edges while the sugar maple, on the right, has smooth edges. Now, I can distinguish them easily and realize we have a lot more sugar maples than red maples.

I have enjoyed watching milkweed bugs which I never noticed until Suzie Leslie, master naturalist, brought them to my attention recently.

First, they're small bright orange spots on the milkweed pods (photo taken September 22).

The bugs molt several times to become large milkweed bugs in late October.

Milkweed bugs eat the seeds which by this time are ready to take flight when a good breeze comes along.

Nature is a great source for inspiration--like this pattern of milkweed seeds which would make a great design for a printed fabric or embroidery.


  1. Lovely photos of changing colors. I drove thru parts of WV a couple weeks ago and found it soooo much brighter than what I have in SW Ohio.

    Your milkweed is a nice series--and you're right about the neat patterning of the seeds--until the wind scatters them aloft!

  2. Nina--Maybe the elevation might have something to do with brighter colors.

    I started noticing milkweed because I look for monarch butterflies and caterpillars. Now, I see they hold a lot more mysterious creatures! Joan