The Fall Equinox is upon us, bringing with it shorter days, longer nights, and cooler air. It's one of two times in a year when day and night are equal in length, the other being Spring Equinox. The sun can now seem intensely bright at times as it tilts away from the Earth. In the stream valley, the leaves are just beginning to change, and the fall forbs are in full glory. The growth cycle that began in spring is complete, and the stream valley will now begin its retreat into dormancy. But while it might seem as if nature is in decline, the streambank forest is alive with the bright fall flowers of our native flora.
The sunny floodplain meadow is ablaze in yellow. It was razed last fall by Dominion Power and is just beginning to return to life. There is nowhere near the abundance of native forbs seen last year, but I observed tons of Bearded Beggarticks (Bidens spp.) and tall Goldenrod (Solidago altissima, Solidago canadensis) in full glory. Late Boneset (Eupatorium serotinum), Dogbane (Apocynum spp.), and Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) were also in evidence.
Moving into the shady floodplain forest, the colors are more subdued. Nevertheless, I came across magnificent sprawling displays of White Wood Aster (Eurybia divaricata), clusters of Calico or Small White Aster (Symphyotrichum latiflorum/racemosum) (not sure which), an occasional Bluestem Goldenrod (Solidago caesia), and large swaths of American Jumpseed (Persicaria virginiana), all in full bloom.
Colorful surprises literally stopped me in my tracks along the trail. I saw more Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) this year than ever before, a highly welcome sight as it competes well with invasive plants along the streambank. I was shocked to see a single specimen of Great Blue Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) thriving beside the trail, in a particularly wet area. And a large patch of Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) was looking particularly lush while displaying a single red berry.
The signs of approaching winter were also in evidence. A clump of New York Fern (Thelypteris noveboracensis) entering dormancy surrounded the spent blooms of a large cluster of Cranefly Orchid (Tipularia discolor). This is just one example of the approaching signs of winter, which are everywhere if one looks for them.
The time of renewal is approaching quickly, bringing with it the quiet of winter and time for reflection.