Signs of Fall Y’all

Our outdoor thermometers may not agree, but fall is around the corner. All you need to do is pay attention to nature’s signs that it is fast approaching. And most of us are ready! My birth month of August is always sticky, and I often go through two or more t-shirts a day. September’s weather can be as bad and it seems that the cool days of October and November are a long way off.

But while we are wiping the sweat from our brows, plants and animals around us are busy responding to the changing season in some way or another, if we take the time to notice. These changes in development or behavior are critical in their annual life cycles. For some, this is the beginning of their active phase for the year, for others the end, and still others just a change of season and locale.

The emergence of Spider Lily and Pine Lily blossoms marks the beginning of their growing season. Leaves of both will emerge later in the cooler fall and winter months. Blooms of Goldenrods and the many other fall wildflowers mark the culmination of their warm growing season. In both cases, blooming coincides with the rich diversity of pollinators that drive their reproduction. Those insects are also preparing for the coming fall and winter when cooler temperatures pause their life cycle.

But if you miss the Spider Lilies and Goldenrods, surely the falling leaves of Muscadine and Black Gum may have caught your eye, as they have in my yard. The ground under our live oak is covered with a beautiful carpet of yellow and brown muscadine leaves from the large vine in its branches. The Red Maples, Sourwoods, and Hickories are also beginning to show signs of fall colors. Many grasses and sedges are sporting seed heads that mark the end of their summer cycle.

And if you are like me and try to feed the hummingbirds this time of year, they are here! And if you are slow to break out that feeder, they will let you know by buzzing you on your way out the door or looking pitiful as they fly up to your window. They have great memories and expect that you had their arrival date marked on your calendar! And if the hummers are here, many other migrating songbirds are also lurking in your yard, looking for food to fuel their trip to South America.

Please take the time to look for these signs of cooler weather. Many bring back memories of your childhood. Make memories for your young ones as you show them the beauty of the Spider Lily in your yard or the antics of the hummers fighting over your feeder. Pine Lilies and Orange Fringed Orchids are blooming on the Fontainebleau Trail in Ocean Springs – check them out!

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!

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Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.

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