Many Shades of Evergreens

Week of November 21 – November 27, 2021

Bridget Jones staff member and Environmental Educator

by Bridget Jones, Environmental Educator

After the bright colors of fall disappear, the forest landscape in November can seem full of muted browns and grays. However, during a walk last week at Baltimore Woods, a color caught my eye that is more commonly associated with spring than winter. November is a wonderful time to appreciate the many shades of evergreens.

The more I notice evergreens, the more diverse their colors appear. Sage-colored Christmas Ferns spill over the forest floor. Emerald green clubmosses spring up between the leaves. Stands of spruce trees paint the landscape dark green. The contrast between these plants and the rest of the brown forest provokes a question: why, and how, do evergreens stay green throughout the winter?

Unlike their deciduous neighbors, evergreen plants keep their leaves all year. This strategy saves energy: evergreens can continue producing energy from the sun in winter, and they won’t need to spend energy making new leaves in the spring. The cost is needing to survive winter’s harsh conditions, and evergreens have developed incredible adaptations to meet this challenge. Touch an evergreen leaf and notice the waxy coating on the outside that prevents the plant from losing water. Inside the leaf’s cells, chemical changes occur to help evergreens cope with freezing temperatures. Evergreens can increase the sugar content of their cells to lower their freezing point, and even produce a natural antifreeze. These are only a few of the remarkable strategies that help evergreens survive the winter and create the palette of colors we appreciate.

Over the coming months, take time to notice the many different shades of green that evergreens bring to the forest, and watch as these amazing plants tough out the cold, snow, and ice of winter. If you’re interested in learning more, consider registering for “Exploring the Evergreens of Baltimore Woods,” a guided hike on December 3rd from 10-11am!