The Colors of Nature

Autumn colors in the Blue Ridge Mountains, North Carolina

The beauty of the seasons unfold in a variety of colors. Pastel blossoms of springtime, along with the gentle newness of budding green leaves, lightens the heart. The bright summer sun brings with it the reds, purples and yellows designed to attract many species, including the tiniest Hummingbirds, while the trees settle into their darkest greens. Even the browns and whites of the coldest winters can be striking.

But there’s none so astonishingly beautiful as autumn when the golden glows of the Blue Ridge Mountains turn the color of sunsets as the forests journey onward toward their falling leaves.

Nature, in its finest garments, refreshes the soul.

Asheville is a destination for many reasons. If we aren’t a native, we came for one reason or another, but many of us have stayed because of its beauty. As the season of the “leaf” draws nigh, our eyes turn toward the mountains, and as the days get shorter and the breezes cooler, we look with anticipation toward the painted landscape that has become our home.

A healthy environment is a delicate balance. We continue to find many indicators of stress throughout nature, and in particular the world of trees. Biologists and environmentalists have cautioned us for years, but the silence continues to be deafening.

In The Journeys of Trees by Zach St George, the author talks about factors that have impacted our forests, from the Pleistocene epoch 2.7 million years ago when ice “advanced and retreated dozens of times” to our present time with its own ecological and environmental situations. The migration of trees throughout the eras have been remarkable, but now climate change is happening so quickly some of our forests won’t have time to move. He speaks of the destruction, not only from logging and clear cutting, but also from invasive species of forest insects and pathogens.

Delving further, or perhaps closer to home, according to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, invasive species contributed to about a quarter of the tree deaths in the Blue Ridge Mountain forests in the past three decades.

Many recent nature books speak of the devastation of climate change, but Mr St George’s book is eye opening in many ways, and leaves one appreciating our forests as they exist today.

As we embrace our own Blue Ridge Mountains and relish in the beauty of autumn and its luxurious colors, let us remember and pay attention to the future of our mountains and forests, which impact our future as well.

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