Growing up in Quebec I was disappointed by the poor showing of fall foliage in Manitoba when I first moved here. As a child, I made an annual pilgrimage in the form of a weekend drive to the Laurentians to see the leaves each year with my family. This fall, in Bird’s Hill Park I have been able to view and understand why the Manitoba show is so poor by comparison when viewed from a car. I have also discovered that Manitoba does have all the same glorious colours as Quebec but the effect is subtler and timed differently. In the first image we see the understory of the low prairie canopy. High Bush Cranberry (also known as hobblebush) takes on the brilliant scarlet red so familiar with red maples in Quebec. Dogwoods turn deep red to purple. These red colours only appear low on the ground and out of sight unless you are walking through the woods. Most of the dogwoods and high bush cranberries barely reach shoulder height and so these lovely reds would not be visible from a car while driving down the highway.
While the understory of the woods is in full fall colors, the upper story of tall trees like these cottonwoods are still green with only a hint of yellow. And so seeing green leaves on the trees, one would not expect to find glorious fall colours below. By the time these trees turn brilliant yellow, the understory reds will already be gone to brown. So if you wait until the trees turn to go and view the leaves, you will be disappointed.
This picture of our lot shows how the understory is now in full display while above, the trees are still green.
The mastery of fall displays in Manitoba goes to the lowly poison ivy plant. In this image poison ivy ranges from still green to deep red and all shades in between. Poison ivy can cause severe skin irritations at all times of the year in sensitive individuals, like me. A common mistake people in Manitoba make is to gather the red poison ivy leaves as they turn brown and drop and then burn the litter. The oil which is so irritating is carried in the smoke and can cause not only skin irritation but lung, eye and throat problems. Still, viewed from a safe place, poison ivy is an eye feast this time of year. Poison ivy is a favourite food of white tail deer, especially the berries, and so wherever white tail deer are abundant, so too is poison ivy.