Aristata Land Arts

outdoor design & installation

Outdoor design, installation, and garden care. Specializing in outdoor structures & xeriscape plants. Portland, OR.

Abstract Botany 1 - Fall

I might be biased, as I was born in November, but fall is the season to end all seasons. It is the season that leaves the others a few inches shorter looking up, a little jealous of the splendor of uncalculated beauty. And yes, I believe the fall show is more beautiful than the rebirth and flowers and frills that comes with spring. Flowers are intelligently crafted by evolution to attract pollinators and make more bounty, but the changing color of the leaves are mostly a bi-product.  They just happen and then release themselves, floating sails with no boats, landing underfoot. 


The thing that so fascinates me about fall and I find to be endearingly humble, is that most of these colors are there all along under the green, unselfishly plugging along doing their job. The leaves don't actively change colors so to speak.  We see them in the fall because the chlorophyll has broken down into sugar and moved into the stems for winter storage. These orange and yellow pigments are what's left behind. This is one of life's simplest metaphors, right? There is a wealth of beauty just beyond the surface.

Biologically, there are a few theories to explain the red pigments. There is the idea of camouflage and anti-camouflage either to draw attention to uneaten fruits for maximum seed dispersal or camouflage green leaves so they won't get eaten before they store their chlorophyll. Another theory is that the red pigment acts as a "sunscreen" and protectant during the cold bright days, but none of these theories are overwhelmingly accepted as the answer.

Altruistic beauty? Yep, I think so.


Leaf in front of the lens. This is anthocyanin, the red pigment. 

More than the other three, Fall is uncannily a mirror image of the cycle of life and the hours of a day.  Dusk is the magic hour and I unabashedly revel in the nostalgia of the day, like a dog rolling in the grass, taking a quick pause belly up, eyes to the sky. No thoughts, and lots of thoughts. The endless race trips on itself and suddenly halts, leaving me breathless, eyes darting, realizing what is surrounding me, touching my feet and expanding my lungs frantically, then slow to deep. Every day of fall is like this. A time to look back on the year, and to appreciate death as a beautiful piece of life. Western culture is not so good at embracing death as a celebration of life. Maybe this sort of death, such an aesthetic display, is something we can identify with and feel positively moved by. It is not the end times, and I'll admit it right here - death can be beautiful, especially in the 'spoils' of fall.