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Leaf Peepers

Posted by Ben Beckendorf on

Artwork by BeckendorfAbout the first thing visitors from other parts of Texas notice in East Texas is the trees. The tall pines and beautiful hardwoods represent every variety native to this latitude. Nowhere in Texas is the Fall display so spectacular as here in East Texas. The hardwoods in the northern part of East Texas change first, usually in late October, then with each new cold front the "color change" moves south sometimes lasting until Christmas. Up on the East coast they are called Leaf Peepers, and in East Texas they are called Woods Watchers. They are the folks who go somewhere every Fall to see the color change of the deciduous trees (you know-the ones that shed their leaves for Winter). What few of them know, however, is that those autumn colors have been there all year. They were just covered up by the green chlorophyll that you used to hear about in commercials. These green cells manufacture food to sustain the tree during the growing season, but Fall signals them to go away and what's left are all those reds, yellows, and bronzes.

Weather also effects the colors. A succession of brilliant sunny days packs the leaves with pigments for more intense colors when the green does go away. Alongside the structures of early East Texas settlers are sites of ancient Indian cultures. Tribes of Caddo Indians hunted in these forests and cleared patches for their farms. They gathered hickory nuts, Walnuts, and chinguapins in baskets and held Thanksgiving celebrations in the Fall. Later the Caddos traded corn, nuts, deerskins, and venison to the early settlers for beef and pork.

-Excerpt from Charles Beckendorf Texas

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