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(mouse click to enlarge)
As the end of our 2017 summer nears, we have already entered our fall color leaf season. The above is a close-up of arctic willow, salix arctica, that together with dwarf bilberry, vaccinium cespitosum, in the image below, grow in our turfy areas and start showing fall colors in most years by late August. However this wet year that color change is a few weeks late. Note the willow though only turf high is of course an actual tree and in the above image, its woody root is quite evident.
Most bilberry I saw during my trip were still very green though on sunny south facing aspects were areas where it was turning red. Usually these short plants only look only a dull red when viewed front lit by the sun while when back lit can be intensely red to purple red. However photographers take note, the above is one situation where even front lit they are strongly red. See the bright granite coarse gravel sand this patch is sparsely growing on? Reflected light from that bright granite illuminates the leaves upward providing a bright red even though this is off axis about 90 degrees. In the background is Mesa Lake and Glacier Divide.
While backpacking last week out of North Lake Trailhead over Piute Pass into Humphreys Basin, on my return September 6, I noticed the above yellow patch above the trail. Summit Lake is out of view just below that trail. This image was taken at 11040+ in the marshy meadow a quarter mile west of Summit Lake west of Piute Pass.
In the background in Mount Humphreys. At 11300 feet is the highest grove of quaking aspen populus tremuloides, I've yet encountered in the Sierra Nevada but expect there are places it is grows that are even higher on sunny aspects east of the crest in the southern High Sierra where I haven't explored much because it is such a long drive. Generally as far south as Bishop Creek, one rarely finds aspen above about 10500 feet. The North Fork of Bishop Creek has quite a lot of trees above 10000 below Piute Crags but few above Loch Leven Lake at 10700.
Has anyone here found aspen at higher elevations? If so they are most likely on south facing slopes within talus that covers bedrock just a bit below boulders. Aspen send roots down to the bedrock barrier level where water draining down such slopes below ground against bedrock offers water. Please check elevations with the online topo before offering a suggestion. The below telephoto clearly shows these trees are aspen. Note there are willow species that also change to yellows that grow to higher elevations but are easy to differentiate due to form and leaf shapes. It is also possibly a genetic clone grove where all trees sprouted from the same root system.
And note this is also the earliest date for an aspen grove I've ever encountered undergoing leaf color change. The large groves of the Bishop Creek forks tend to start changing about the third week of September during average years.
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