The last couple of weeks have seen many signs of fall – termination dust on the mountain peaks, high numbers of migrating sparrows (accompanied by a few lingering warblers), the few clear nights bring chilly mornings with frost covered ground, and there are patches of color. There are some trees that have been planted around town which are fairly reliable for showing bright colors in the fall, but for the most part you won’t find many plants poking you in the eye with their colors around Sitka.
As I understand it, cold nights and warm days tend to result in more colorful leaves. Predominant weather patterns in these parts during late September and October don’t really lend themselves to such days, so perhaps that plays a part in the lack of color. (Of course it doesn’t help that most of our land cover is conifer forest, and the primary deciduous trees, Red and Sitka Alder, don’t seem to be capable of showing any thing approaching a bright color, regardless of conditions.) Today while walking by Crescent Harbor I noticed the colorful fireweed (Chamerion angustifolium) shown above and wondered if the cold nights and warm days we’ve somewhat uncharacteristically experienced over the past week may have contributed. I noticed a few other fireweed plants showing some color as I walked over to UAS, but none stood out quite so much as this lone plant.