Vermont Leaf Migrations

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Fall-Farm_001.jpg It’s a little known fact that leaves don’t actually all grow from buds in the spring and fall off the trees in autumn. Actually, it is so little known that I think I’m the only one who knows this - but it is true.

I’ve seen it first-hand over the past year. What is really going on is that leaves are rather disgruntled bio-creatures who annually migrate in a vain attempt to find the perfect location in which to hang out (literally). Let’s start in the summer and work our way through the year and I’ll show you what you’ve been missing.


The leaves are happily hanging out (literally) on their respective trees, soaking up the sun and cranking out chlorophyll. An occasional breeze rustles them from complacency and exposes the underside to the sun. Some succumb to insects and some weather the indignity of bird droppings, but for the most part they are all comfortable and happy.


The sunlight begins to shorten its duration and temperatures drop. The leaves become unhappy. “Where’s all that warm sun that we had last week?”, they ask. “Down south.” the elders reply, “in Florida and Puerto Rico.” This makes them angry. They bluster and huff and puff. They turn red and yellow and pale green. “So why are we hanging out (literally) here?” is the logical retort.

This is most obvious near the tops of the mountains and hills where it gets cold earliest in the season. Soon you see the angry leaf reactions all over those elevations. The discontent spreads down the mountainsides week by week. Soon the tops have turned all sorts of colors and are then empty of leaves that have packed up and headed to places like San Juan and Fort Meyers. An exodus of the remaining leaves ensues. As the bottom elevation leaves see the upper elevation leaves streaming past on their way to warmer climes, they too join the flow. It becomes a panic. The color streams down the mountains, into the valleys, and is soon gone.


All the leaves are gone. Many remain dead on the ground, trampled by the hordes fleeing the cold weather. Humans mistake these victims as the natural result of biology. They are just the poor fools who tried to carry too much stuff on the migration and were slowed by exhaustion. Look carefully under a dead leaf and you’ll probably find it was trying to haul a little leaf piano all the way to Orlando.

Those leaves that made it out are now hanging out (literally) on different trees in warm climates. Wearing native dress, they blend into the local flora with loud shirts, take advantage of early bird specials, and drive 20 mph under the speed limit.


The temperature begins to rise to uncomfortable levels. The 70s and 80s nudge into the 90s. The leaves become unhappy again. “I thought that this was supposed to be warm sun, not sweltering! Where is all that nice weather we were having a few weeks ago?” they grouse. “Back home in Vermont.” the elders roll their eyes and reply. This makes them frustrated. They didn’t migrate two to three thousand miles just to turn around and go back again in a few months. They bluster and huff and puff. They turn red and yellow and pale green. “I guess we’re through hanging out (literally) down here!” they declare.

Soon you can see the migrants arriving back in the Vermont valleys. The reds climb back into their favorite trees. The yellows ascend theirs. The pale greens rise into whatever is left. Once the early migrants have assembled and gotten comfortable there is no room for new arrivals. “You’ll have to find a tree up on the mountain.” they tell the newbies. “But it’s colder up there!” is the complaint. “Don’t worry,” they answer, “by the time you get there it will be warmer.”

So the red, yellows and pale greens in the valley settle in, start producing chlorophyll, and turn dark green. The newbies trudge ever higher up the mountainside, painting it with various hues until established and green themselves. By the beginning of June the Green Mountains are once again living up to their name.


Soon it is summer and the leaves are happily hanging out (literally) on their respective trees. The chlorophyll is pumping and all is right with the world - for now


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Dad, this would make a great children's book. Do you think that you could illustrate it?


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This page contains a single entry by published on April 25, 2004 12:28 PM.

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