red yellow green flame
leaves unfolding, lighting up
the mud dark creek
On a loamy walk through the low flats along Pilgrim Creek in April, I'm delighted by Buckeye leaves erupting from the tips of sprouts, twigs and trunks. It's incredible how so much matter is packed into such a tiny space. Where does it come from? Sap, taking on a myriad of forms.
All the scenes of the drama appear at once, often on the same plant, from encased leaf buds, to emerging leaflets, to blossom buds.
The buds poke up through their red-tipped yellow sheathes like candle flames.
Over-wintering as tiny match heads.
Covered in tough, overlapping, pointed scales.
Then the leaflets pop up, like silk scarves out of a magician's sleeve.
Unfolding like the most intricate origami.
Some low-growing sprouts show evidence of being nipped off by deer, but the hardy plants just send new shoots off to the sides.
As the now-soft sheaths curl back and the corrugated leaflets unfurl, they flare into wild tassels of lime green . . .
Umber gold . . .
And burnt orange.
Gradually spreading out into maroon five-fingered leaves that slowly turn green.
And then the final magic trick as the long panicles of yellow flower buds emerge amidst applause.