Our woods are loaded with oaks, maples, hickories, sweet gums, tulip poplars, wild cherries, and the occasional sassafras. When fall came and they dropped their leaves, I once again was aware that the woods are full of another deciduous tree…and this one won’t drop its leaves until spring.
When the woods are bare in winter, I see large numbers of American Beech trees (Fagus spp). They were invisible during the other seasons, lost in the forest greenery. But in winter they reappear and are easily identified by their small, light tan leaves. They glow in the sunlight that filters down through the open forest. The Beech leaves will hang on until new leaves emerge in spring to push the old ones off a twig.
It’s a revelation of sorts when, with the change in seasons, something pops out of the background and presents us with a surprise moment of beauty: a splash of spectacularly beautiful red fall foliage in a sea of green, a clump of daffodils in an empty lot, a whiff of honeysuckle on my afternoon walk, first forsythia on the side of the road, the call of a wren on a gray winter morning, a wall of greenery suddenly gone purple with wisteria. Where had they been hiding all year? Same as the Beech trees…waiting for their time to make their statement and give a smile to a passing traveler.