New Hampshire: Leaf Peeping Through Time

AUTUMN (1831). — The later weeks in autumn possess a pensive interest from the change of the forest foliage–The fresh, beautiful green, that girded the mountain, and foliage1waved over the vales like the graceful folds of a mantle, is now no more.  The traveler trades in the wilderness on a rustling bed, and the passing wind is burdened with the descent and flight of the sere and yellow leaves.  The trees begin to stretch out their bare imploring arms toward a heaven that may frown in wintry terror upon them.  A walk in the woods in these clear autumnal days, is a lesson in wisdom.  The spring is foretold in the death of vegetation, as immortality is denoted by the grave.  In both cases nature dies that is may live again; lays down in the dust that it may clothe itself afresh in the colors of glory….. [from BADGER’S WEEKLY MESSENGER, as published in Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst NH; Vol. 30, Issue 13, Page 1.
AUTUMNAL LEAVES (1832). — The beauty of the North American forests in the decaying state of their foliage has often been remarked and admired; and it is said to be peculiar to the woods of this region. It is now at this period at its height; and it struck us, in a short ramble the other day, that it exceeds all we have before witnessed. Let a spectator place himself on an eminence hard by a forest of promiscuous trees, and attentively view the scene, and he must admit that it is one of surpassing beauty and richness….The colors are not of that glaring and gaudy show which immediately arrests the attention of every one; but the eye once engaged and fixed upon the scene, a most rich, mellow, variegated picture, is presented, and one that swells and softens in beauty and richness the longer the eye rests upon it. There may be seen all the hues of the rainbow,–the rich scarlet of the maple, the golden yellow of the beach, the crimson of the oak, the unchanged and living green of the pine, and every intervening shade. [as published in New-Hampshire Patriot, Concord NH; Volume 4, Issue 176, page 4.
foliage 2AUTUMNAL FOLIAGE (1852).–The beautiful appearance of the autumnal foliage, which this year seems almost to surpass in gorgeousness that of any previous season, often induces an inquiry as to the reason of the change which a few frosty nights make in the green livery of our trees and forests. The question is purely a chemical one, and one moreover about which there is no very general agreement of opinion. In fact, there is no subject included among natural phenomena more difficult to explain than this change in the constitution or arrangement of matter whereby a particular body is caused to reflect or absorb light in such a way that it assumes at one time a wholly different color. These changes are very far from being confined to any one species of matter. The trout which, on a sandy bottom, has a yellow, speckled hue becomes dark brown or blue beneath a shaded bank; the yellow of the weasel and the rabbit, maintained during the summer months, is already changing to white; and it is susceptible of rigid demonstration that the blue of the October sky is not the same, either in tint or quality, with that which welcomed the bursting of the leaf in the months of April or May.

The general supposition in regard to the change of the leaves is this: When the tree or plant is in full activity, its foliage, it is well known absorbs carbonic acid and disengages oxygen. When, now, through the influence of a sufficiently low temperature, or from any other cause, the functions of vegetable life are suspended and the fluids cease to circulate, the leaves no longer disengage oxygen, but in common with all dead bodies, absorb this gas, which, forming an acid, changes the colors of the leaves either to yellow, red or some intermediate shade, depending on the quality of the matter present in the leaves. It has also been asserted that this acid can be neutralized by an alkali, and the green restored. This is not, however, the case. A leaf does not become green by any re-agent; but when it has become red, a solution of potash will change it to green, because the red coloring matter forms green compounds with that alkali.

Berzelius, the great Swedish chemist, spent considerable time in investigating this subject. He found that when the yellow leaves were treated with alcohol, they yielded a granular substance, which had a tendency to criminalization, and also a yellow, soft, fatty substance, which appeared identical with the grains.–These contained the yellow coloring matter of the leaves, which is described as a yellow, fatty, unctuous substance, easily melted, and on cooling becoming concrete and transparent.–When moistened with water, and long exposed to the air and light, it loses its color entirely. Berzelius was of the opinion that the transformation of the green coloring matter of the leaf into a yellow is effected by a change in the organization of the leaf, produced by the forest. Every effort to reproduce the green from the yellow proved fruitless; neither could he succeed in changing the green coloring matter to yellow. The red coloring matter of the leaves has been also extracted and is believed to be the same with that of red fruits. The brown color which leaves assume when completely withered has nothing in common with either the red or the yellow colors. It is produced by an extractive principle, originally colorless, but which, when the epidermis or outer layer of the leaf structure has decayed off, is acted upon the oxygen of the air, and communicates to the fibrous skeleton of the leaf the well known brown color. This color is one of the most fixed and unchangeable with which we are acquainted, and cannot be impaired or destroyed by the most powerful chemical re-agents. This, we believe, embodies all that is at present known, scientifically speaking, respecting the change of the leaves. The different appearance presented by different trees must be referred to a difference in their nature, and the different changes observed in different countries and locations is undoubtedly owing to different climatic conditions–Springfield (Mass.) Republican [from the New-Hampshire Patriot, Concord, NH, 17 November 1852; Issue 287, page 4
FOLIAGE IN DECEMBER (1853).–A correspondent has sent us several specimens of green foliage plucked yesterday morning, the last day of the year, from the honeysuckle, the rose, the spirae, and peach tree. These shoots are from four to five inches in length and are well covered with leaves as is usual for them at the last of May or first of June. Our correspondent says he might have gathered leaves equally fresh from a dozen other shrubs and plants in his garden, in West Cedar street. They have actually grown considerably in the open air within the last ten days. The memory of the “oldest inhabitant” would be taxed in vain, we think, to recall to mind so mild a a December as that thro’ which we have just passed.–[Bost. Jr.] [from Farmer’s Cabinet, Amherst, NH; 13 January 1853; Vol 51, Issue 23; page 2
NO PLACE SO BEAUTIFUL (1872). –No place about our city has been growing so beautiful and attractive of late as the Cemetery. Especially has this been true the past season. The warm, moist summer has preserved its foliage and flowers in uninterrupted brightness and fragrance. It is a favorite resort for all, and particularly dear to hundreds who have laid beneath its green turf the dear companions and friends of life. Just now the leaves are beginning to ripen, and ere many days the trees and shrubs will be in their gorgeous autumnal coloring. Up to the present time, perhaps art has done more to decorate some other similar enclosures, and the sculptor’s handiwork has prepared no more beautiful and diversified spot for the deposit of the ashes of the dead. And now cultivated taste and liberal wealth is being used to combine the grandeur of monumental art with the studied elegance of gardener’s skill. It is a pleasure to note that the pilfering of choice flowers and roots from the graves has ceased, as far as is known. [from Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Policies, Portsmouth NH; Volume: LXXXII; Issue 41, page 2
SYNONYMOUS TERMS (1881). — The foliage of the maples were just turning purple and gold, the horse chestnuts were falling to the ground like angel’s visits, few and far between, the sassafras leaves had lost their juiciness and the bark of the black birch was no longer tender to the incisors of the small boy. In fact, the woods were crisp with drouth, and the under-brush crackled beneath their feet with a tell-tale cackle. But bless your heart, they didn’t mind it. George and Sarah were not after Autumn leaves to press (they had something better,) for horse chestnuts they sighed not, and the days when sassafras and black birch would satisfy their longings had long since gone by. They were listlessly, lovingly, strolling through the wooded dells, taking silent comfort in each others presence, wrecking not of the occasional hum of the bumble bee or of the sharp crack of the sportsman’s rifle. They were in love–in the woods. Well–the terms are synonymous –New Haven Register. [published New Hampshire Sentinel, Keene NH;  Vol. LXXXIII; Issue 44, page 1.

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*ADDITIONAL READING*

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