Superimposed maple leaves

“Every blade in the field — every leaf in the forest — lays down its life in its season as beautifully as it was taken up.  It is the pastime of a full quarter of the year. . . . And what is that pride of our autumnal scenery but the hectic flush — its painted throes — with the November air for canvas?”
—  Henry David Thoreau, “October, or Autumnal Tints”

It’s been a while since I’ve photographed my “adopted” maple trees and willow.  After a few windy, blustery November days, almost all of the willow leaves have fallen.  The maple holds on to its lower leaves, but the upper branches are stripped of leaves.

Last golden maple leaves cling to the tree’s lower branches

My “adopted” maple trees in late November

A lone willow leaf

Fallen willow leaf






“To experience the idiosyncrasies of falling leaves on a visceral level, try catching them.  ‘Every leaf you catch this month means a happy month next year,’ I once read, and I’ve made it my business to catch twelve leaves each fall ever since.  It’s harder than you think, nabbing leaves from air.”
— Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

Fallen maple leaf, early October

“The action of leaves in air, when they’re falling, provides the most compelling images of this season  . . . leaves twist, twirl, or spin . . .”
—  Nancy Ross Hugo, Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees

“Down, down!
Yellow and brown
The leaves are falling over the town.”
— Eleanor Farjean, “Down, Down”

Well, I’ve heard “Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket,” but I’d never before heard about the beneficent powers latent in falling leaves to bring happiness.   This year I will have to try to catch a few.  I imagine this might be harder than it appears — you have to predict just where those wayward leaves might land!

“The leaves are falling, falling as if from far up,
As if orchards were dying high in space.
Each leaf falls as if it were motioning ‘no.'”
— Rainier Maria Rilke, “Autumn”


“Nature will bear the closest inspection.  She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”      — Henry David Thoreau, Journals, October 22, 1839

An insect’s view of a maple leaf

Scrutinizing maple leaves


Nancy Ross Hugo, author of  Seeing Trees:  Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees, suggests this activity for engaging with trees in summer — hold a contest to find the smallest and the largest leaves from a particular kind of tree.  When I tried it, I learned that my “adopted” maple tree does indeed have a wide variety of leaf sizes at any one time.  Interesting!

Maple leaves, big and little

Maple leaves, various sizes from one tree



Horse chestnut volunteers

New trees sprouting

Nature is certainly tenacious.  I noticed these horse chestnut trees sprouting in the parking strip where mature trees had been removed earlier this year.  I don’t doubt that these volunteers will soon be mowed down.  But I have to admire Nature’s optimism in attempting to regenerate.

I wonder at what point a sprout or shoot becomes a sapling?


Horse chestnut tree — leaves and seed pod

Prickly horse chestnuts

A pair of horse chestnuts

The horse chestnuts are growing.  The prickly balls look like an alien life form!


New leaf, tulip tree

June foliage, tulip tree

I seem to be doing a lot of tree watching lately.  This Liriodendron tulipifera, or Tulip Tree, is growing just down the street from my home.  It is native to the Eastern US, but seems to be doing well here in Seattle.  It can grow to be the largest of the North American native deciduous trees and is famous for its gorgeous autumn foliage.

But right now, I like the curving lines of its leaf edges and its flowers.  The tree is in bloom, and the flowers do indeed look like tulips.

The tulip tree flowers in June.

The blossoms resemble tulips.

Looking up, view from beneath a bloom.



The Kousa dogwood trees are blooming so profusely, the four-petaled bracts overlap like interlocking puzzle pieces.

Kousa dogwood

The “flowers” are actually modified leaves called “bracts.”

The dogwood bracts grow upright in tight rows

Looking up into a dogwood tree from below

Wouldn’t this make a lovely headband for a bride!

Patterns of dogwood bracts in reverse color


Pattern of black walnut leaves circling like a school of minnows

Looking up into the canopy of a black walnut tree

Black walnut leaves

It’s June and the trees are in full leaf, lovely green against blue skies.  My eye was caught by the pattern formed by leaves of these black walnut trees as I walked to work yesterday.  Each black walnut leaf is composed of 15 – 23 leaflets arranged alternately on a stem.  They are pinnate compound leaves, with leaflets shaped like feathers.  Looking up, I could see patches of leaves, which formed swirling circles, like a circling school of minnows!  Quite beautiful!

Patterns of black walnut leaves

Are these tiny green pods baby chestnuts?

The flowers are now withering and falling from the horse chestnut trees.  When I looked closely, I noticed some tiny, green pods on the flower stems.  Could these be baby horse chestnuts?

Horse chestnut pods and one flower

The leaves of a horse chestnut tree are palmately compound, with leaves opening like fingers round the palm of your hand.