For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together.
For nature, it is a time of sowing,of scattering abroad.
~Edwin Way Teale
Like Teale I knew that autumn’s winds were scatterers and sowers, but until I did some research, I didn’t realize how much the autumnal shedding of leaves accomplishes. For the sake of the sod, the fallen leaves cover the ground like a protective blanket. It’s also easier for leafless trees to conserve much needed moisture in their branches and trunks, and since cold, dry winter winds strip moisture from trees through their leaves, losing their leaves is self-protective mechanism. It would also be very costly energy wise for trees to keep their little leafy food factories up and running with less light and heat. Because the transport of water from the ground into the trunk and leaves would be a damaging drain on a trees’ limited resources, the loss of leaves puts trees into a state of dormancy thereby reducing the amount of energy they need to live. When leaves “come to rest upon the ground,” their work is far from over. As they lie there, they become food for soil organisms which are vital to the overall health of ecosystems. In addition the decomposing leaves restock the soil with nutrients and make up a part of the spongy humus that absorbs and holds rainfall. And finally with the arrival of spring and warmer temps, bacteria, fungi, and insects come into play because the fallen leaves are chewed and rotted which in turn releases nutrients for plant growth.
“For the wisdom that fashioned the universe and can be read in earth’s dark depths and in heaven’s infinity of lights thanks be to you, O God.” ~John Philip Newell