My mother and I had a typical fall conversation the other day – blah blah pumpkins blah crisp air blah blah blah suitable layers of clothing. When we got around to the part where we talked about the colours of the leaves, she told me the birch tree in their front lawn had “just a few yellow leaves.”
“That’s weird, because so does ours, and we’ve already had snow,” I told her.
(I really wish I had been kidding.)
We were both a bit surprised at what the other was saying until we realized it was an issue of semantics. She meant ‘just a few of our tree’s many remaining leaves have turned yellow so far, while the rest remain a dazzling shade of green because our weather is glorious.’ And I meant ‘just a few yellow leaves are left on our tree, because the rest have crumbled and died, much like my soul, in the face of the ever-advancing winter.’
I guess that’s what a 1,000-kilometre difference in latitude looks like.
We’ve had a few other surprises when it comes to trees here in the North.
I believe I’ve already described my shock when I realized there were no maple trees. Or oak. Or chestnut. I’ve seen a few ash, but I’m mostly convinced that those have been artificially introduced from the south. Without all those trees with widely different leaves, I’ve realized that my ability to tell trees apart is specialized exclusively to deciduous trees. Show me a row of trees and I’ll tell you, “Oak, oak, birch, maple… pine?”
Evergreens, to me, all look like each other – green cone-shaped pointy things. I know some are greener and some have needles that are broader, but I don’t know which belongs to which tree.
And that, in turn, led to another surprise; not all evergreens are, in fact, evergreens.
Enter the tamarack. It’s that bright yellow cone-shaped pointy thing. Not quite an evergreen if it’s going to turn brilliant gold, is it?
Tamaracks are part of a small group of trees that I only recently found out exists – they’re deciduous conifers. In other words, they have needles and form cones, like conifers, but they change colours in the fall and lose their needles every year, like deciduous trees.
One on hand, I’m glad tamaracks exist because they add a punch of flash to the landscape. And contrasting colours are interesting to look at – just ask my three-month-old.
But there’s something that I find irksome about them at the same time. Isn’t it a little suspicious that these trees are trying so hard to be two things at once? Being one type of tree seems like enough for so many other species. Maples, oaks, willows, spruces – none of them seem to have this identity crisis.
Hmmm. As pretty as they are, I think tamaracks are going on my “keep an eye on these guys” list.
The only other members, for the record, are duck-billed platypuses and tomatoes.