Spectacular displays of fall foliage that are so common throughout much of North America, are relatively rare in central coastal California.

Most of trees, like this Coast Redwood, are evergreen (click any image to enlarge)

Unlike the deciduous forests in the northeastern United States that provide an abundance of fall foliage, here on the west coast, most of our coastal forests are evergreen, and change little from one season to the next.

Fall rains mean lots of green grasses too

Even though our woodlands don’t significantly change color with the seasons, that doesn’t mean that fall passes us by.  We just have to look a little more closely to find it.

There are few hints of fall on the farm

As we’re expecting rain again this weekend, I took the opportunity this morning to take a brief autumn walk around the property.

The most notable signs of the fall season on the farm can be found in the orchard.  The path to the orchard though is getting to be somewhat treacherous.

Our overabundance of acorns this fall is making the paths slippery

Our native oaks have been producing an absurd amount of acorns this year.  One misstep, and you can quickly find yourself on the ground.

Stepping carefully out to the orchard we find that our fruit trees, especially the peaches and plums, are finally providing a welcome punch of color in our otherwise green landscape.

Fall leaves on 'Frost' Peach

As beautiful as the ‘Frost’ peach is, we’re a little sad to see the end of the season for this tree.  Stripped of much of its cambium below the soil line by meadow voles this spring, come late December this tree will be removed from the orchard. As you can see, this tree is beautifully resistant to peach-leaf curl, so a replacement tree will be planted in January.

Moving through the orchard, the ‘Satsuma’ plum is shedding the last of its leaves.

Leaves of 'Satuma' Plum

The pears, like this ‘Bosc’ are turning color too.

Leaves of 'Bosc' Pear

This season the ‘Stella’ cherry tree is also showing some fall color.  This tree didn’t show much color last season, but this year the leaves are turning a beautiful golden yellow, with just a hint of red.

Leaves of 'Stella' Cherry

The fruits on persimmon ‘Chocolate’ are turning color too.

Persimmon 'Chocolate' won't be ripe for some time

Across the orchard we find Salvia ‘Winifred Gilman’ with some beautiful rust colored seed heads.

Although the leaves of Salvia 'Winifred Gilman' are green, the seed heads are a fall rust-brown

Just as we leave the orchard, suddenly an unexpected burst of warm orange from the last of the California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica in bloom.

A California Poppy, still in bloom in November

Not to be outdone, the last of the Poison Oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) leaves are changing color for the season.

This time of year, the poison oak is easy to avoid

We remove this plant within the orchard to avoid unnecessary exposure, which typically results in one of us getting a miserably itchy rash.  However, it’s an excellent habitat plant, valued by wildlife both for shelter and food, so in the woodland areas we leave it to grow.

The trees surrounding the orchard are primarily still green.  In fact, the autumn months see the return of more green throughout the property, usually in the form of various grasses, mosses, and lichens, that reawaken with the first rains.

Our native Live Oaks are encrusted in feathery mosses

There are some intermittent splashes of color amongst the greens though. The fruits on the native honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula) vines are turning vivid red, and will no doubt be relished by the birds that overwinter here.

Berries of our native honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula)

The hips on our wild wood roses (Rosa gymnocarpa) are also turning a vibrant shade of red too, and provide food for our resident wildlife during the fall and winter months.

Fall leaves, and hips, on Rosa gymnocarpa

The wild birds no doubt will also enjoy the jet-black fruits from the native Coffeeberries (Rhamnus californica) too.

Fruit on Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica 'Eve Case')

The most significant foliage color from the native woodland trees is being provided by the Big Leaf Maples (Acer macrophyllum).

Leaves of the native Big Leaf Maple (Acer macrophyllum)

Their display is brief, and intermittent. Often turning color at the top of the trees first, they shed their leaves quite gradually from top to bottom, so the top of the tree may be yellow, while the bottom is still quite distinctively green.

The Big Leaf Maples are about as spectacular as it gets in our native woodland

This typically progresses to the tops of the trees being completely bare, long before the lower leaves finish turning color.

However, the leaves of this tree, the California Tanbark Oak (Notholithocarpus densiflorus), should not be changing color.

Tanoaks should be evergreen

This is an evergreen tree, but this year our Tanbark Oaks all across the property are turning brown.  They are the most susceptible to sudden oak death here, and no doubt we’ll need to remove more of them come spring.

Shrouded among the fallen leaves of the Big Leaf Maples, and Oaks, small colorful forests of fungi are bursting forth from the damp soils throughout the woodland areas.

Dense cluster of fungi are growing in the leaf litter

This morning, in advance of the approaching rains,  I was impressed at the variety of fungi found in the leaf litter this early in the season.

The fallen leaves retain moisture in the soil, keeping conditions favorable for a whole host of species

Including some beautiful clusters of Psathyrella sp. mushrooms.

The diversity of fungi on the property are a more reliable indicator of fall, than the trees

This large cluster of Coprinosis lagopus, just off the driveway, appears almost frost-touched, although we haven’t yet had any significant frost this season.

Coprinopsis lagopus

As I stood up after photographing this mushroom cluster, I found someone else on an early morning autumn walk.  I turned around to find a coyote standing within five feet of me!  I was a little down slope, so I don’t think he knew I was there.  For a second we both just stood there, and stared at each other.  Then suddenly he took off, turned the corner, and he was gone.  One of those perfect shots that got away, because I couldn’t get the macro filter off the lens fast enough.  Oh well, I’m sure there’ll be a next time.

Coyotes are no strangers to the farm this time of year

After that close encounter, turning my attention back to the leaf litter, I found one of many brightly colored banana slugs.  We don’t trap slugs on the farm to protect this species, as they are an important part of our redwood forest ecosystem.

Mushrooms, like this Russula sp., are a delicacy in the diet of the banana slug

Their vibrant yellow color blends in well with the Big Leaf Maple, and California Bay Laurel leaves on the forest floor.

The banana slugs are everywhere, providing a little fall color of their own

Beneath the trees, the native, deciduous, Western Bracken Ferns (Pteridium aquilinum) are also changing color with the season.

Bracken Fern (Pteridium aquilinum)

Although most of the foliage is turning a warm brown, a touch a golden yellow lingers on a few of the fern’s leaves.  This stand of ferns just in front of the house is approximately 4 feet tall.  Our resident deer, especially the young fawns in late spring and summer, often sleep secluded under their enormous leaves.

We found fall after all...

The fall colors on the farm may not be as spectacular as in some areas of the country, but there’s no denying that the seasons are definitely changing.