Early-Changing Maple Branches

August 25, 2017

Someone I spoke with a few days ago in Massachusetts told me that recently, when she was packing up to leave her summer place in Maine, she noticed that one of the trees had a single branch that had turned red early.  She said this happened every year.  Always the same tree, always the same branch, always by mid-August.

I knew exactly what phenomenon she was talking about.  I’m pretty sure the tree in question was a Red Maple.  They sometimes do that.

Some years ago, I had gotten to know just such an early turning maple branch along Route 6A on Cape Cod.  I always looked for it as our family set out from my parents’ house on the drive back to Maine in mid-August.  It was always there.  Here in Central Maine, too, near our yard there is a Red Maple with an early-turning branch.  Each year in August without fail the same branch turns red while the rest of the woods is all solidly green.

I realize that this early onset of color change probably indicates that the branch is stressed in some way.  But the fact that the tree and its special branch continue pretty robustly from year to year is reassuring.  From experience I know that these branches can survive for decades.  For me they are a reminder that trees, like us humans, and indeed all organic things, live lives linked to sunlight and its fluctuations.

In the rich green days
of zucchini, crickets, corn–
  one red maple branch.

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