Friday, October 9, 2015

Episode 285 (10-12-15): "Colors" by John McCutcheon Taps into an Autumn Turning Point for Trees and Water

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (3:29)

Transcript of audio, notes on the audio, and additional information follow below.

All Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-9-15.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of October 12, 2015.

MUSIC – 4 sec

This week, we repeat an episode from October 2014, featuring music about an annual turning point that inspires humans but shuts down trees.  Have a listen for about 40 seconds.

MUSIC – 40 sec

You’ve been listening to part of “Colors” by John McCutcheon on his 1998 album “Four Seasons: Autumn Songs,” from Rounder Records.  Prior to moving to Atlanta in 2006, Wisconsin native John McCutcheon was a long-time resident of Charlottesville, Virginia.  The song’s full lyrics portray a person’s growing appreciation of the variety of fall leaf colors and their power to inspire and invigorate people.  But for the trees, autumn colors and falling leaves are signs of internal changes leading to the relative inactivity of winter dormancy.  Stopped water movement is one of the key changes.  Leaf drop follows the sealing off of a leaf’s veins from the stem vessels that carried water and dissolved materials to and from the leaf during the growing season.  Left behind on winter twigs are characteristic marks called leaf scars and bundle scars marking these fluid-transfer points.  Above or beside these leaf scars are cold-resistant buds, harboring the tissues that will become next year’s leaves and colors.  Thanks to John McCutcheon and Appalseed Productions for permission to use this week’s music, and we close with a few more seconds of “Colors.”

MUSIC – 15 sec

For more Virginia water sounds, music, and information, visit us online at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of Cripple Creek to open and close the show.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


“Colors” and “Four Seasons: Autumn Songs” are copyright by John McCutcheon/Appalsongs and Si Kahn/Joe Hill Music, used with permission of Appalseed Productions.  More information about John McCutcheon is available from his Web site,

This week’s episode replaces Episode 234, 10-6-14.

Black Gum twig showing bud above a crescent-shaped leaf scar; the leaf scar contains three white bundle scars.  Photo by John Seiler, Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Conservation; used with permission.
Sugar Maple in early stages of changing colors in Blacksburg, Va., October 5, 2014.
Twin Red Maples in full autumn color at Bissett Park in Radford, Va., October 18, 2011.
Sugar Maple in Blacksburg, Va., October 21, 2014.


Used in Audio

J.R. Seiler, J.W. Groninger, and J.A. Peterson, Forest Biology Textbook (compact disk), Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Conservation, Blacksburg, 2008, online at

“Why Leaves Change Color,” U.S. Forest Service/Northeastern Area, online at

Other Sources of Information about Trees and Water

“Virginia Tech Dendrology Tools,” online at  This Web site, part of the dendrology course by Dr. John Seiler in Virginia Tech's Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, offers identification keys and fact sheets to trees and other woody plants throughout North America.

Jacob Demmitt, “Professor's leaf peeping is down to a science,” Roanoke Times, 10/18/14.  This article discusses details of fall colors in tree leaves with John Seiler, Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation.  The article is available online at

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “An Introduction to Trees in Virginia and Their Connections to Water,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center, December 2011; available online from from the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, at


Other Virginia Water Radio episodes on trees include the following:
Ecological and human benefits of trees: Episode 153, 3/18/13, featuring “Grandad Planted Trees” by Bob Gramann;
Forests and forestry in the southeast: Episode 160, 5/6/13, featuring “Piney Mountains” by Bruce Molsky;
Maple trees: Episode 84, 10/17/11, featuring “Wind in the Maples/Sugartree Branch” by Timothy Seaman;
Sycamores: Episode 176, 8/26/13, featuring “Sycamore Rapids” by Timothy Seaman.

Please also see the “Plants” category at the Virginia Water Radio Index link above (


This episode may help with the following Virginia’s 2010 Science Standards of Learning (SOLs):

Grades K-6 Earth Patterns, Cycles, and Change Theme
K.10 – Changes in natural and human-made things over time.
2.7 – Weather and seasonal changes affecting plants and animals.
3.8 – Basic patterns and cycles in nature.

Grades K-6 Life Processes Theme
K.7 – basis needs and processes of plants and animals.
2.4 - life cycles.
3.4 - behavioral and physiological adaptations.

Grades K-6 Living Systems Theme
2.5 - living things as part of a system, including habitats.
4.4 – basic plant anatomy and processes.
5.5 - organism features and classification.

Life Science Course
LS.6 - ecosystem interactions, including the water cycle, other cycles, and energy flow.
LS.9 - adaptations for particular ecosystems’ biotic and abiotic factors.
LS. 10 - changes over time in ecosystems, communities, and populations, and factors affecting those changes.

Biology Course
BIO.8 - dynamic equilibria and interactions within populations, communities, and ecosystems; including nutrient cycling, succession, effects of natural events and human activities, and analysis of the flora, fauna, and microorganisms of Virginia ecosystems.

Virginia’s SOLs are available from the Virginia Department of Education, online at