Monday, 12 November 2018
A flash of gold
By early November most of the glorious pyrotechnic shades of autumn are off the trees, but there's a last flourish from one tree. Larches (Larix decidua) are a slightly unusual tree, a deciduous conifer. They aren't native to Britain but have been planted here since the 17th century and have become very much part of the woodland scene. Here, small saplings line a forest track on the lower slopes of Bennachie with a flash of gold.
In early spring larches form "flowers", the male flowers a cluster of creamy anthers and the female variety a striking pink, which eventually will become the seed-bearing cones. The needles form on the twigs, first as bright lime green shoots which mature into dark green needles. In late autumn, after most other deciduous trees have started to shed their leaves, the larches moment to shine arrives......
In a matter of days the needles turn the most dramatic golden shade - against a flawless blue sky the trees make a striking sight.
All too soon the needles will drop, covering paths, tracks and the banks of watercourses with a carpet of gold. Even in November, commonly perceived as a grey and lifeless month, there's colour aplenty in the landscape.