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View Fall’s Rainbow at The Ford—Autumn’s Visual Palette Spans the Color Spectrum

As the nighttime temperatures begin to drop and the daytime becomes less humid, it is our favorite time to walk around The Ford. Vibrance is all around us. There’s a frenzy of activity from squirrels, birds and other wildlife.

 

As for the less-lively (but no less fascinating) parts of nature—most of the leaves retain their bright, dominant green, but if you take a closer look, there are pops of rainbow colors all around. We encourage you to take the naturalist challenge with us in the next few weeks of prime time: when outdoors, see how many of these fall colors you can spot!

 

Red

Observe plants hosting colorful berries, ripe and ready for migrating birds and other animals to feast upon.  The Yaupon Holly is one of our most distinctive plants along the dike trail when the red berries begin to ripen. Yaupon is dioecious, which means that male and female flowers are born on separate plants; male yaupon hollies do not produce berries. The berries can be red, orange, or even yellow, and birds and other wildlife will feed on them through the winter months. Its scientific name, Ilex vomitoria, is given for these toxic berries, which Indigineous People would ingest to induce hallucinations and vomiting during religious ceremonies.

 

Orange

Look for chanterelle mushrooms! These edible orange mushrooms grow along the wetlands and embankments of our dike trail from time to time. Warning; never eat a mushroom if you are not certain of its identity—false chanterelle mushrooms, orange peel mushrooms, and jack-o’-lantern mushrooms are also common here. They have a similar color but can be toxic.

 

Yellow

Fun for this exercise but not great for the local ecosystem is the Chinaberry tree—commonly spotted at The Ford. Chinaberry is an invasive species with yellow berry-like structures. These make them easy to identify, along with their speckled bark.

 

Green

When you think of an acorn, do you automatically think brown? Ripe acorns are brown, but there are many bright green and yellow acorns falling from the many species of oak trees right now, particularly along the dike trails. Seeing this variety of acorn color means the oak trees are dropping the seeds prematurely and are under stress. This may be due to a very hot summer, heavy rains, poor pollination, or disease. Recent and frequent heavy rains in this region could be the reason there are so many of these beautiful acorns on the ground.

 

Blue

The great blue heron is often spotted along our dike trails, particularly the Lake Clara Dike Trail. White ibis, green herons, little blue herons, black night crowned herons, yellow night crowned herons, wood storks, snowy egrets, cattle egrets, and great egrets all call The Ford home during roosting season in the spring. Most of these still hang out in the area during the fall for its excellent fishing grounds. These birds can make up their own natural rainbow with the many colors they have! Even the rare roseate spoonbill, North America’s only native pink bird, was recently spotted at The Ford.

 

Purple

Did someone spill their bag of grapes on the trail? No, these grapes are Georgia’s native muscadines. The vines grow along the ground and on trees and shrubs. The higher the vines reach, the more sunlight they get and the more fruit they produce. In October, muscadines are at the end of their growing season, so you may see some trampled on the trail. It is best to pick them in the summertime, but many animals will eat these throughout the growing season.

 

Make time to walk outside today to find your own rainbow of colors, like the ones cited or others that catch your eye! There are many colors to feast your eyes upon right now! If you would like to take a guided nature walk with The Ford’s own Naturalist Brittany Dodge, please contact her at naturalist@fordfieldandriverclub.com.

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