Montreal In The Fall 9

The Arboretum’s trees are ablaze with color throughout the fall, so this is the perfect time to make a Fall Colors walking tour, through six of the Arboretum’s collections.

We’ll use the Rosemont Boulevard entrance, as a starting point.

Note: there are no marked trails in the Arboretum. You will be walking on the grass and using the map to find your way around. If you are worried about getting lost, check the Arboretum map or talk to the staff at the Tree House before you set out.

With that settled, the crew suggest that you start your tour from the northern tip of the Garden, which will bring you to the Arboretum straight away.

Station 1: Larches

Now, how about that Autumn leaf color! When you see conifers covered with golden yellow needles across from the Tree House, don’t worry. They’re not sick. That’s the natural color of larches (Larix spp.) in fall. In the conifer world, where evergreen foliage is the rule, the larches are the exception, for their needles turn color in fall and drop off before winter arrives — just like the leaves on deciduous trees!

Keeping needles year-round would be a definite advantage in regions with a short growing season and poor soil — just the kind of places larches prefer. That would also extend their growing season and require fewer nutrients in the spring, (since there would be no need for the foliage to grow back each year) so does it make any sense at all for larches to shed their needles? Or has Nature goofed?

No, Nature has not made a mistake. In northern regions, the soil often remains frozen until very late in the springtime, yet the air heats up sufficiently to cause water loss through the needles.

Since the water in the ground is still frozen (and not accessible), larches shed their needles as a way of survival in spring.

How do other conifers cope then? Well, they close their stomata completely (stomata are tiny openings on the surface of the needles which allow these tree to breathe and transpire). In addition, their needles are covered with a cuticle (i.e. a waxy layer that reduces water losses). The coating on the other conifers is thicker than that on larch needles.

Nature has so much to share!

While you are there, realize that the Arboretum is a very popular place with birds.

Most of the 183 species observed at the Garden also visit the Arboretum, so a network of birdfeeders has been put out to make birdwatching easier in winter.

Enjoy! I’ll share another tree species to spot, tomorrow.

Montreal Botanical Garden

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