Hannibal Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley shares about his little maple tree's last fall hurrah.
Like many people, I look forward to the annual transformation of foliage from shades of green to a rainbow of colors. Frankly, I can’t begin to imagine what life would be like in regions of the country that do not feature fall’s annual eruption of color.
As leaf lookers know, some falls are more colorful than others. An assortment of factors can come together to rob leaves of their vibrancy.
Late this summer I began to hear from people in the know that this fall would be especially colorful. And while some trees were amazingly bright in early October, it seemed that the show I was envisioning wasn’t going to occur. However, one afternoon in late October, as I looked outside at a nearby hillside, I was treated to a sea of oranges, yellows and reds in a variety of shades.
While my yard is quite small, it has featured a handful of trees since we moved in almost 30 years ago. However, none of them ever got particularly colorful in the fall.
Nancy, my wife, and I decided to do something about that roughly a decade ago. We went to an area nursery where we purchased a maple tree whose leaves were supposed to turn red each October/November.
Not unexpectedly, the new addition to our back yard needed lots of tender, loving care in the beginning. More than once I was swarmed by mosquitoes while standing out at the end of a hot, summer’s day, watering the tree.
But in time, as the days grew short and the air temperature dropped, we were rewarded with a tree full of red leaves. There were times when it literally looked like the tree was ablaze when the light from the late afternoon sun would find its branches.
All was good until last year when I noticed some of the maple tree’s upper branches did not put on leaf buds in the spring. I kept hoping that for some reason the upper leaves were just later that year than their lower-branch brothers.
Even more alarming was when the leaves on one of the tree’s main branches withered and died in the spring, leaving approximately the upper one-third of the tree bare.
Nancy and I decided to cross our fingers and hope that the tree would come out of its “funk” this year and all its branches would again be covered with leaves. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Eventually we asked Ed Tamerius, a member of the Hannibal Tree Board, to come by our house, take a look and give us his prognosis. Ed confirmed our worst fears – the top part of our maple tree was indeed dead.
We’re not sure what led to its demise. It could have been a fungus. It also could be it just didn’t receive enough sunlight, since it stands in the shade of another maple tree that’s in our yard. It’s also possible that during last year’s drought year the bigger maple didn’t “share” enough water with its “little brother.”
Nancy’s father, who also knows a thing or two about trees, has suggested that our tree is now more susceptible to disease. His advice: Remove it.
The tree could have been brought down at any point over the past few months, especially after the May storm when a neighbor came over with his chainsaw and helped cut up a section of our larger maple tree that the high winds had toppled. But Nancy and I agreed to delay the inevitable and give the little tree one more chance to shine. We were not disappointed.
As has been the case in previous years, the tree was slow to change. But when it did, the leaves it still has turned a dark red, which glowed in the afternoon light.
It’s almost as if the tree was making the most of its one last hurrah.