Fencerows and Edges in Autumn

Forest edges, roadsides, swamp borders and fencerows are all ecotones, places where different communities come together. Ecotones may be large or small, with transitional areas that are gradual and extensive or abrupt and barely noticeable.

The transitional area between communities is often relatively rich and varied due to the presence of organisms that prefer edge habitats as well as cohorts from “each side of the fence”. This natural phenomenon, called “edge effect”, enhances visual resources as well as biodiversity. The variety of trees and shrubs and the good lighting associated with ecotones can result in several layers of colorful foliage capable of transforming a drab landscape scene into wall-hanger.

The rural countryside of central New York is a superb example of the nature and value of localized ecotones. The goal of this post was to capture ecotones in rural landscapes, beginning first with panoramic views, then zooming in to view foreground details. All of these images were taken in central New York within the last few days.


Dairy farm


Dairy farm and the headwaters of the Chenango River



A large, fencerow habitat adjacent to cultivated fields


A closer view of the fencerow in the previous image; the colorful, 5-10 foot tall shrub layer is Staghorn Sumac, a native, thicket-forming species.


The colorful, feathery leaves of Staghorn Sumac; see my “March Robins” post from March, 2013 for the fruit and wildlife value of this shrub.


The fall foliage and male flower buds of American Hazelnut, a native shrub


The ripened fruit of American Hazelnut, encased in bracts that look like dried leaves (the squirrels still find the nuts!)


Single fruit of American Hazelnut


Witch Hazel, a native shrub, has the unusual habit of flowering in the fall (the yellow, strap-like petals); see a recent post by “Naturally Curious with Mary Holland” for more photos and a detailed explanation


The harvested field next to the featured fencerow came alive in the 70-degree sun. At least three species of butterflies – Cabbage Whites, Sulphurs and Variegated Fritillaries – were nectaring on the flowers of residual weeds and legumes.

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.