In this part of the world, where autumn grows cold and winter bears down hard, it’s all-too-easy to retreat indoors. There is little or nothing left to do in the garden, so going outdoors gains other purposes: dashing to the car, running errands, walking the dog, going down to the garage to make sure the snowblower starts up on command. During the times when I walk, late fall gives me the leisure to be more observant of nature. This week, I have been noticing fruit on trees. Not apples or pears—I live in a village, not near an orchard.
Two trees in particular caught my attention recently. Both have red fruit. Actually, just as an aside, have you noticed how so many fruits tend to be red-colored when ripe? Not just apples, but rose hips, barberries, cotoneaster, honeysuckle (some), cherries and chokecherries, holly, sumac? What is up with that? Certainly the brightness stands out this time of year, calling out to hungry migrating birds—is the explanation that simple? I wonder.
One that really stands out is mountain ash, Sorbus. There are two kinds, the native American one (S. americana) and European (S. aucuparia). The native one’s berries are smaller and red, while the import’s are a bit bigger and orange-red.
But the ones I think are really intriguing (a polite way of saying weird?) are the red fruits of the kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa), originally introduced to this country from China, Japan, and Korea as an ornamental tree. A few yards in this town have them and there is no denying the sensational beauty of their springtime blooms. Unlike others of its tribe, the fruits that follow are big-ish drupes that some have likened to an oversize raspberry. Further, they are supposedly “sweet and edible.” Hmm! I think they look like small plastic space toys. As for flavor, I like what ace horticulturist Michael Dirr had to say about that: “I have sampled [these] and can honestly say I prefer Snicker’s bars”!