Alaska’s Fall Foliage

It’s Labor Day today, and in New England, family and friends are celebrating the end of summer outside in 72 degree weather. It is warm, but there is a hint of crispness in the air, the feeling that fall will arrive soon. Here in Alaska, however, fall has arrived. That crispness has been in the air for weeks. Today’s high is 60, and at night it will be 40. We are wearing wool sweaters and occasionally a hat. But more striking, at the beginning of September, is the foliage. The leaves are changing and it even looks like fall… sort of.

Alaskan foliage in Denali National Park 9/5/10

The forests in Interior Alaska are different than in New England. Here, our Boreal Forests, called Taiga, are composed of stunted black spruce trees, somewhat more robust white spruce trees, hemlock, Sitka spruce, and a few species of deciduous trees, mostly in the birch and willow families. And as you New Englanders know, the birch and willow leaves turn yellow in the fall. So the foliage is changing to a bright yellow on a deep pine green backdrop. Because of the permafrost, large deciduous trees can’t take root here, nor can they survive the exceptionally cold winters. The reds and oranges and browns of the sugar maples and oaks are not in the trees of Alaska’s foliage.

But don’t you fret! Those reds and oranges show up, instead, on the ground cover. The millions of berry bushes and other ground shrubs are changing into vibrant reds and oranges, with the twiggy trunks looking purple next to the leaves. It’s quite stunning. And while it definitely looks different from my New England falls, it still feels like fall, and even a bit like home.

There’s a moose in them there berry bushes!

The black bear got really close to Lee!

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2 Responses to Alaska’s Fall Foliage

  1. Pingback: lwpetersen - Beautiful, Beautiful Denali National Park

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