With the first official day of fall this Sunday, let’s review what “fall” means in northeast Florida so that we all can prove to the tourists that, yes, we do “have seasons in this hot, sticky, god-forsaken place.”
Rest assured, kind visitors, that we have autumn in Greater Jacksonville, but it’s not immediately evident where to look to see it.
First, early in September, the monarch butterflies start showing up headed south to Mexico.
By the middle of September, the angle of the sunlight has changed so that the sun doesn’t beat down so hard and temperatures stay below ninety.
That’s about average. You can feel the change in the air now.
Oh, look, the sumac’s turned orange …
Even people who have lived in Florida all their lives have a kind of Yankee nostalgia about leaves and fall colors.
Look at back-to-school advertisments and such – falling leaves, the hills ablaze with autumnal colors, browns and golds, red and orange, sweaters vests – things that either don’t happen very much here or that we don’t need very often.
You’ll know it’s fall in GreaterJax™when the crepe myrtles turn orange and red and drop their leaves. Sumac turns, too, just not as soon.
The crepe myrtle trees and sumac vines start turning colors toward the end of the month unless it stays really warm, and then you’re looking at October.
Sweet gum, golden rain trees & oaks
The golden rain trees turn reds and pinks and drop their little Chinese lanterns seed pods by the millions.
And the sweet gums turn gold and then drop their spikey little balls everywhere.
That’s a real treat, especially when you’re barefoot in the back yard.
Oak trees change color, too, but only some of them.
The oaks that stay green all winter are live oaks.
The ones that turn are red and white oaks, mostly. (Both get yellow leaves.)
There’s yet another kind of oak tree called a water oak whose leaves go from green to brown over night, usually around the first frost (sometime in January, maybe).
Just like up North, oaks trees dump loads of acorns every damn fall. You can’t miss it.
Most tourists will recognize the maple trees when they turn. They’re mostly sugar maples, and they just blaze when then weather’s right.
Of course, all this showy garbage is off if it’s too dry and too hot too long.
Then all the leaves that would normally turn and tell us it’s really fall dry out, turn brown and fall off.
You wake up one morning, and the yard’s covered with them.
However, the grass underneath all the leaves and most of the other Florida foliage will stay green.
And then there’s the weather
It’s sunny more often than not during the fall and not quite as humid.
In fact, for most of the winter, the daytime temperature hovers about 75, although we do enjoy the upper 60s, and, if the weather is really inclement, the mid-50s.
You’ll need a sweater.
Yes, it will freeze. No, not very often and not usually for very long.
Even in the dead of winter, expect to see butterflies and blooming flowers, but don’t break out the heavy winter shorts and socks to go with your sandals until after the first of the year.
But when we’re lucky, we get those gray autumn days when the sky looks like snow, and it’s much more convenient to sit on the couch sipping a hot toddy than it is to work in the yard.
That’s why there are gas logs and fake fireplaces to burn them in.
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OFFICIAL BIO: K Truitt is a second-generation, native Floridian born in Jacksonville. Truitt worked in public higher education for 25 years and knows newspaper publishing, printing and graphic design. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org