Reference my post Why the Colors of Fall. This year here in East Central Wisconsin one can really see a difference in the colors of fall. The wet year we’ve had has produced variations in leaf color and the recent mild temperatures have slowed the change. But if you look closely, here and there you’ll find some bright oranges and beautiful golden yellows.
In September 2018, NASA launched an instrument, via the ICESat-2 satellite, called ATLAS which measures many ecological surfaces to determine the health of the world’s resources. This laser-like device measures the satellite’s position, the angle and how long it takes the laser beam to bounce back from the surface it is measuring. They’ve been measuring the elevation of the Earth’s ice, land, water, clouds, and now trees. Here’s where citizen scientists come in.
NASA would like citizen scientists to help validate the tree measurements they are taking from space. By knowing the height of trees, researchers can estimate the health of the Earth’s forests and calculate the amount of carbon dioxide they store.
The NASA GLOBE Observer app is user-friendly. Besides measuring trees, among other things, it also measures the landscape around you and mosquito habitats. It has a tutorial and helpful hints.
Once you’ve selected your straight tree and staked out a spot about 25 to 75 feet away, you hold the phone in front of your face and angle it to measure the base and then to the tree’s top. Then you take a picture, count your steps to the tree, log your position at its base and the app will calculate the tree’s height. (Verge)
Thanks to the Ecological Landscape Alliance (ELA) for making me aware of this great app.
Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea)
Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea), often referred to as Red Twig Dogwood is another striking shrub because of the red highlights in its growth. This multi-stemmed shrub has red stems which are at their most brilliant in the late winter when the sun begins to shine longer in anticipation of spring. [Read more…]
The other day my husband John and I were having breakfast on the deck, overlooking the prairie, and he asked “are those red things on the dogwood berries?” Nope, they were not, but from a distance the bright red stems left from the Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) fruits sure did stand out.
Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia)
I love the distinctive branching pattern of the Pagoda Dogwood. It branches horizontally in a distinct tiered appearance, growing much wider than it is tall. It reminds me of a Japanese Garden.
Like all dogwoods, it has clusters or panicles of four-petaled flowers in the spring which form berries or drupes. Its berries are bluish-black in color with red flower stalks or peduncles. It’s clusters of creamy white flowers are flat-topped. They ripen in July. Later in the fall, the dark green oval leaves, which alternate on the stem (unlike other dogwoods), turn a lovely shade of reddish burgundy. It can handle full sun, but also likes part shade.
Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa)
I love all the dogwoods, but I think Gray Dogwood is my favorite. It’s white, dome-shaped clusters of flowers in the spring, followed by white berries on those beautiful red stems in summer are so striking. Unfortunately, the berries don’t last long once the birds find out they’re ready for harvesting!
That grayish bark stands out amidst its lance-shaped leaves which grow opposite each other on the branch. Like all dogwoods, each leaf will have three or four curved veins per side which are slightly parallel to the curved edges of the leaf. They are dark green on top and lighter green and hairy on the bottom. In the fall, the Gray Dogwood leaves will turn a sort of purplish red in color.
A Great Border Shrub
We have Gray Dogwood growing at the back (south boundary) of our prairie, where it gets lots of sun. It makes a great border and as I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, is an important element of any hedgerow. It is striking mixed in with American Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum tirlobum), Wild Plum, Red Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and some Cupplant (Silphium perfoliatum) for good measure. All these native plants seem to do well in the sometimes soggy soil of the back boundary of our prairie.
Any of the dogwoods are a great nectar and pollen source for a huge variety of insects, as well as a food source for many more insects, larvae and caterpillars. Birds nest in their dense branches which are opposite branching. Their berries are eaten by a variety of birds and small animals and its leaves and branches are eaten by Cottontail Rabbit and White-Tailed Deer. It is very definitely a highly desirable plant for any well-intentioned habit.
If the conditions are just right, sometimes the dogwoods have blossomed twice for us during the year. That’s an extra treat for both us and the birds.