Monday, October 25, 2010


It's a dreamlike autumn in Michigan. The sun shines every day and the air is warm and inviting. The only rain is the soft, steady stream of dappled yellow, orange and scarlet leaves that fall through a clear blue, cloudless sky. 

The vast deciduous forests of the state are famous for their spectacular fall displays of color. This year, however, nature has surprised and awed even long-time Michigan residents like us.  

Pure Michigan, the State's official web site, offers a variety of color tours throughout Michigan. We followed one on the 18-mile long Old Mission Peninsula, which juts out into Grand Traverse Bay. The roads of the hilly peninsula wind in and out and up and down through apple and cherry orchards, vineyards and blazing forests, all set against a backdrop of the turquoise bay. It's just 60 miles from our cabin in northern Michigan, but if we had crossed the ocean to see it, we would have thought it worth the trip.

As I gazed, I wondered, how many leaves are there, on just one maple or oak tree? According to Michigan Forests Forever, a mature, healthy tree has between 200,000 and 250,000 leaves. More than half of Michigan's 56,000 square miles are covered with trees -- 11.4  billion trees --and more than 75 percent of those are hardwoods. Factoring in smaller trees which would have less leaves, but adding in the billions of uncounted shrubs and bushes in the understory, I decided to use a conservative figure of 100,000 leaves for each hardwood in Michigan. By my calculation, that's 855 trillion leaves. That figure makes even the U.S. national debt look small. In fact, if Michigan leaves were dollars, we could pay off the national debt 62 times and still have 10 trillion dollars left over! 

If we had to clean up the leaves, every one of Michigan's approximately 10 million people would have to rake up more than 85 million leaves each. Fortunately, nature takes care of most of them. Still, according to my estimates, we will have to remove about 500,000 leaves from our small lawn in Ann Arbor.   

Dazzling and daunting figures, but as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. So, click here to see my photos of Michigan in autumn.

Photos can also be seen by clicking here.
For color tour routes in Michigan, click here.
Comments are welcome and can be left below.


Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor


  1. Spectacular colors. D.

  2. I just love your blogs. I was reading some of the past ones that I hadn't read before. I especially loved the story of your sister and Spello.

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  4. Beautiful, Geraldine! It's still all green, and no leaves off the trees where I live in NC! I guess we're just starting to have cold enough weather. I've seen fall foliage on the road, though--your photos are stunning! (as always)


Thanks for your comments.