Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Fall in LA

All my life having been subjected to the miraculous, dramatic shocks of the changing seasons in the UK, I will always feel rather cheated in Southern California, where the changes are more subtle. Because of this, I get extra excited when finding evidence of Autumn- or I should say "the Fall"- in LA where the majority of trees are evergreens.

As I have said before, as an artist my prime interest in trees is visual. Although my knowledge of the indigenous British trees is quite extensive, it is very limited regarding trees from other countries, including those in the US. In the last few days I have twice been made very aware of this, and embarrassed myself.

The first instance: Nearby, there is a wonderful avenue of one of the few local trees that are now glowing red and yellow and orange. I vaguely decided they were some variety of Maples- partly because of their colours and partly because of the palmate shape of the leaves:

Before writing this post I looked more closely at them, and soon realized that there were no signs of the Acer family winged seed pods. Instead there were these spiky, round fruits that I think of as "pom-poms", similar to those on the London Plane trees, and the leaves were slightly different from all the Maples.

A bit of research led me to the American Sweetgum tree- Liqidambar styraciflua.

My second instance of mistaken identity was in a street connected to that of the Sweetgums, down which I regularly walk when taking my Granddaughter Violet to a nearby playground. There I was constantly enjoying some magnificent tall golden trees, especially when lit by sunlight. Again, I was not that concerned about what they were, as it was their colour rather than their structure that caught my attention. I thought they were possibly some sort of Sycamores (though not the London Plane tree).

Having decided to include them in this post I became a bit more observant: checking out the leaves on the ground, I recognized the distinctive shape of a tree I had fallen in love with in the Botanical Gardens of Bath. This was the Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, also known as the Yellow Poplar tree, although it is a member of the Magnolia family. What puzzled me at first was that on the LA trees I had never noticed the wondrous flowers they have, and which I had delighted in photographing on the Bath tree- but then I remembered that last Spring I left the country in March, before they would have blossomed.

These are the LA leaves:

And this is one of the Bath ones:

And here is the evidence I zoomed in on of the seed clusters on the LA tree:

Finally, two photos of the Tulip tree flowers in Bath. I just can't wait to see the LA trees covered with these magical flowers next year!