Out of Season

This summer brought a strange first for me: photographing fall color in July. The ninebark shrubs on the Middle Fork of the Salmon were turning amazingly early. The commonly go on the earlier side, and I’ve often see good understory color by mid to late August, but never before in mid-July. Some slopes were downright brilliant with red and orange. I expect this is related to drought stress from the Inland Northwest’s extremely dry spring and early heatwaves this year.

This is probably mallow ninebark (Physocarpus malvaceus). It does well in fire scars, which naturally offers it many opportunities in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness and throughout central Idaho.

6 thoughts on “Out of Season

  1. This drought has brought early leaf color change, and especially leaf dropping, over here as well. This is supposed to be the wet, western part of the state but not this year! Everything has been crunching underfoot for a while now. I can’t wait for the rains but I fear they will arrive in massive dumps instead of the usual fine rain. But you have made beautiful images from these changes, and from fire evidence – I like all the fine, black, vertical lines in the second photo. Beautiful work.

    • The Middle Fork is very much a fire-adapted ecosystem, and due to its remoteness it never had the degree of fire suppression most areas did in the 20th Century. It gives me hope to be on intimate terms with a wilderness where fire is so undeniably part of life. You see evidence of it almost everywhere, but the place is still amazing. Good thing, since the upper stretch of the river is burning right now.

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