If you didn’t know, you might think that this time of year—just before the Fall Equinox—is a time of death in the plant world. I mean, leaves are curling up and some have fallen already, or are turning red or yellow, and only the flowers of fall, the asters and the hothouse chrysanthemums bought at the market, are blooming. Even many of the goldenrods have gone by.
But no, not at all a time of death. For the successful plant, fall brings the culmination of all of its efforts during the spring and summer’s growing season (if you will permit anthropomorphization of a plant!). For now it will have set its fruits, the fruits of its labors. And within these fruits, precious seeds await liberation, so that they might carry forward a new generation.
On a walk yesterday in the piney woods of Cape Cod, I counted eight kinds of fruits, and I wasn’t even looking closely. Poison ivy presented its clusters of pale fruits (birds like them even if we don’t), and deep purple beach plums weighed down their home branches. Black chokeberries glistened just above my head, and nestled close to the ground the bright red round fruits of bearberry sparkled within their modest foliage. Near the start of the little trail, roses had set their hips, filled with seeds, and a Virginia Creeper vine held out its fruits on stiff short stalks. And, of course, the peculiar wax-covered clusters of bayberries lined the trail. There was also a prolific shrub I could not identify which offered large faintly poisonous-looking clumps of small reddish fruits. I will have to find out what it is. [Turns out it is a Shining Sumac—I’m pleased ‘cause I thought it looked like a sumac but I couldn’t find it in the book—and some sumac is definitely quite poisonous.]
Birds and other animals will be eating these nutritious fruits, and leaving the seeds within them wherever they happen to fall; in this symbiotic action the task of the parent plant has been accomplished. To go forward into the future.
Well-done, you fruiting plants! Life goes on!