Monday, October 10, 2022

Episode 638 (10-10-22): Autumn’s Turning Point for Trees and Water, Featuring “Colors” by John McCutcheon

CLICK HERE to listen to episode audio (4:22).

Sections below are the following:
Transcript of Audio
Audio Notes and Acknowledgments
Related Water Radio Episodes
For Virginia Teachers (Relevant SOLs, etc.).

Unless otherwise noted, all Web addresses mentioned were functional as of 10-7-22.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the weeks of October 10 and October 17, 2022.  This revised episode from October 2015 is part of a series this year of episodes related to trees and shrubs.

MUSIC – ~12 sec – instrumental.

In this episode, we feature music about an annual turning point that inspires humans but shuts down trees.  Have a listen for about 40 seconds.

MUSIC – 40 sec – Lyrics: “Leaves turn green and then grow bright to every color, every type, and finally in the wind let go, to fall and paint the earth below.  Roots so deep, the trunk so high, her arms reached up into the sky; through her veins all colors run from everywhere to everyone.”

You’ve been listening to part of “Colors,” by John McCutcheon, on his 1998 album “Four Seasons: Autumnsongs,” 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 describe a growing appreciation of the variety of fall leaf colors and their power to inspire and invigorate people. 

But for deciduous trees—that is, those that lose all of their leaves annually—autumn colors and falling leaves are signs of internal changes leading to the relative inactivity of winter dormancy.  Reduced water movement is one of the key changes.  Leaf drop follows the sealing off of a leaf’s veins from the stem vessels that carry water and dissolved materials to and from the leaf during the growing season.  During that growing season, evaporation of water from leaves—called transpiration—and the cohesion between water molecules are the main driving forces pulling water up from roots through woody stems to the leaves.  This water movement provides tree cells the vital fluid needed for the cells’ structures and biochemical reactions that allow survival and growth.  That growth stops during winter dormancy, and water movement is much reduced.

After leaf fall, left behind on winter twigs are characteristic marks called leaf scars containing bundle scars showing the previous growing season’s points of fluid transfer between stems and leaves.  Above or beside the leaf scars are overwintering 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 about 20 more seconds of “Colors.”

MUSIC – ~23 sec – instrumental.


Virginia Water Radio is produced by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, part of Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment.  For more Virginia water sounds, music, or information, visit us online at, or call the Water Center at (540) 231-5624.  Thanks to Stewart Scales for his banjo version of “Cripple Creek” to open and close this episode.  In Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


This Virginia Water Radio episode revises and replaces Episode 285, 10-12-15.

“Colors” from the 1998 album “Four Seasons: Autumnsongs,” on Rounder Records, is copyright by John McCutcheon/Appalsongs and Si Kahn/Joe Hill Music, used with permission of John McCutcheon.  More information about John McCutcheon is available online at  Thanks to Erin Grace Deedy of Appalseed Productions for her help in acquiring permission to use this music.  More information about Appalseed Productions is available online at

Click here if you’d like to hear the full version (1 min./11 sec.) of the “Cripple Creek” arrangement/performance by Stewart Scales that opens and closes this episode.  More information about Mr. Scales and the group New Standard, with which Mr. Scales plays, is available online at


(Unless otherwise noted, photographs are by Virginia Water Radio.)

Red Maple in Blacksburg, Va., October 6, 2022.

 Sugar Maple in Blacksburg, Va., October 6, 2022.

Two Sugar Maples with a Pignut Hickory in between, on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, October 11, 2022.

Sourwood on Brush Mountain near Blacksburg, Va., October 9, 2022.

Blueberry shrub on Brush Mountain near Blacksburg, Va., October 9, 2022.

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.


Used for Audio

John R. Seiler, John W. Groninger, and W. Michael Aust, Forest Biology Textbook, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Va., 2022.  Access requires permission of the Virginia Tech Department of Forest Resources and Conservation, online at; phone (540) 231-5483; e-mail:

F. Stuart Chapin, III, et al., Principles of Terrestrial Ecosystem Ecology, Second Edition, Springer Science+Business Media, New York, N.Y, 2011.

Steven G. Pallardy, Physiology of Woody Plants, Third Edition, Elsevier/Academic Press, Burlington, Mass., 2008.

U.S. Forest Service, “Why Leaves Change Color,” U.S. Forest Service, online (as a PDF) at

For More Information about Trees and Shrubs in Virginia and Elsewhere

Center for Watershed Protection, “Trees and Stormwater Runoff,” online at

Chesapeake Bay Program, “Field Guide: Plants and Trees,” online at, “Flora of North America,” online at

James P. Engel, “Shrubs in the Understory,” February 2012, online at

Oscar W. Gupton and Fred C. Swope, Trees and Shrubs of Virginia, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1981.

Sanglin Lee and Alan Raflo, “Trees and Water,” Virginia Water Resources Research Center, Virginia Water Central Newsletter, pages 13-18, online at

Penn State Extension, “Trees, Shrubs, and Groundcovers Tolerant of Wet Sites,” prepared by N. Robert Nuss, and reviewed and revised by Scott Guiser and Jim Smellmer, October 2007, online at

Plant Virginia Natives, “Virginia Native Shrubs—Backbone of Our Landscape,” undated, online at 622 - Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, “How Trees Grow,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, Forests of Virginia, 2018, Resource Update FS-264, Asheville, N.C., 2020; available online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service, “State and Private Forestry Fact Sheet—Virginia 2022,” online (as a PDF) at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service/Climate Change Resource Center, “Forest Tree Diseases and Climate Change,” online at

U.S. Department of Agriculture/U.S. Forest Service/Northern Research Station (Newtown Square, Penn.), “Forest Disturbance Processes/Invasive Species,” online at”

U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service, “PLANTS Database,” online at

Virginia Botanical Associates, “Digital Atlas of the Virginia Flora,” online at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Natural Heritage Program, “The Natural Communities of Virginia: Ecological Groups and Community Types,” online (as a PDF) at

Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation/Natural Heritage Division, online at

Virginia Department of Forestry, “Virginia’s Forests,” online at  Some of the useful pages at that site are the following:
“Benefits of Trees,” online at;
“Common Native Trees of Virginia,” 2020 edition, online (as a PDF) at;
Tree and Forest Health Guide
, 2020, online (as a PDF) at;
“Trees for Clean Water Program,” online at;
“Virginia Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources,” November 2020, online (as a PDF) at (see page 19 for statistics on forested land; p. 21 for economic benefits; and p. 23 for water quality benefits);
“Tree Identification,” online at

Virginia Forest Landowner Education Program, Virginia Cooperative Extension and Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, online at

Virginia Forest Products Association, online at

Virginia Native Plant Society, online at

Herbert S. Zim and Alexander C. Martin, as revised by Jonathan P. Latimer et al., Trees—A Guide to Familiar American Trees, St. Martin’s Press, New York, N.Y., 2001.


All Water Radio episodes are listed by category at the Index link above (  See particularly the “Plants” subject category.

Following are links to other episodes on trees and shrubs.

Introduction to trees and water – Episode 621, 3-21-22.
American Sycamore – Episode 624, 4-11-22.
American Witch Hazel – Episode 238, 10-31-14.
Ash trees – Episode 376, 7-10-17 and Episode 625, 4-18-22.
Early spring wildflowers in woodlands – Episode 573, 4-19-21.
“Fifteen Minutes in the Forest” video podcast series – Episode 637, 9-26-22.
Forest lands and work in Virginia – Episode 623, 4-4-22.
Maple trees – Episode 503, 12-16-19.
Photosynthesis – Episode 602, 11-8-21.
Poison Ivy and related plants, including the shrub Poison Sumac – Episode 535, 7-27-20.
Rhododendrons – Episode 574, 4-26-21.
Shrubs Introduction – Episode 630, 6-20-22.
Tree buds – Episode 622, 3-28-22.
Tree colors and changes in fall, including changes to water movement – Episode 638, 10-10-22.
Trees in watery habitats – Episode 626, 4-25-22.
Waterside trees as bird nesting habitat – Episode 627, 5-9-22.


Following are some Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs) that may be supported by this episode’s audio/transcript, sources, or other information included in this post.

2020 Music SOLs

SOLs at various grade levels that call for “examining the relationship of music to the other fine arts and other fields of knowledge.”

2018 Science SOLs

Grades K-3 plus 5: Matter
K.4 – Water is important in our daily lives and has properties.

Grades K-4: Living Systems and Processes
K.7 – Plants and animals have basic needs and life processes.
1.4 – Plants have basic life needs (including water) and functional parts that allow them to survive; including that plants can be classified based on a variety of characteristics.
2.4 – Plants and animals undergo a series of orderly changes as they grow and develop, including life cycles.
3.4 – Adaptations allow organisms to satisfy life needs and respond to the environment.
4.2 – Plants and animals have structures that distinguish them from one another and play vital roles in their ability to survive.
4.3 – Organisms, including humans, interact with one another and with the nonliving components in the ecosystem.

Grades K-5: Earth and Space Systems
K.9 – There are patterns in nature.
1.7 – There are weather and seasonal changes; including that changes in temperature, light, and precipitation affect plants and animals, including humans.
2.7 – Weather patterns and seasonal changes affect plants, animals, and their surroundings.
3.7 – There is a water cycle and water is important to life on Earth.
4.4 – Weather conditions and climate have effects on ecosystems and can be predicted.

Grades K-5: Earth Resources
2.8 – Plants are important natural resources.
3.8 – Natural events and humans influence ecosystems.
4.8 – Virginia has important natural resources.

Grade 6
6.6 – Water has unique physical properties and has a role in the natural and human-made environment.

Life Science
LS.4 – There are chemical processes of energy transfer which are important for life.
LS.5 – Biotic and abiotic factors affect an ecosystem.
LS.7 – Adaptations support an organism’s survival in an ecosystem.
LS.8 – Change occurs in ecosystems, communities, populations, and organisms over time.

BIO.2 – Chemical and biochemical processes are essential for life.
BIO.8 – Dynamic equilibria exist within populations, communities, and ecosystems. 

2015 Social Studies SOLs

Grades K-3 Geography Theme
1.6 – Virginia climate, seasons, and landforms.

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

Following are links to Water Radio episodes (various topics) designed especially for certain K-12 grade levels.

Episode 250, 1-26-15 – on boiling, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Episode 255, 3-2-15 – on density, for 5th and 6th grade.
Episode 282, 9-21-15 – on living vs. non-living, for kindergarten.
Episode 309, 3-28-16 – on temperature regulation in animals, for kindergarten through 12th grade.
Episode 333, 9-12-16 – on dissolved gases, especially dissolved oxygen in aquatic habitats, for 5th grade.
Episode 404, 1-22-18 – on ice on ponds and lakes, for 4th through 8th grade.
Episode 407, 2-12-18 – on snow chemistry and physics, for high school.
Episode 483, 7-29-19 – on buoyancy and drag, for middle school and high school.
Episode 524, 5-11-20 – on sounds by water-related animals, for elementary school through high school.
Episode 531, 6-29-20 – on various ways that animals get water, for 3rd and 4th grade.
Episode 539, 8-24-20 – on basic numbers and facts about Virginia’s water resources, for 4th and 6th grade.
Episode 606, 12-6-21 – on freezing and ice, for kindergarten through 3rd grade.