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Great Maples of Mt. Auburn

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Amazing amazing trees grace Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass, and perhaps the most impressive of them are the Japanese maples who were trying hard to leave me breathless, and succeeding.

Japanese maples, especially the weeping and cutleaf variety (Acer palmatum dissectum and other varieties) are very slow-growing trees. I don't know how old these are, but they are venerable in the extreme.

To truly appreciate a mature weeping Japanese maple, one must enter it, as one enters a secret chamber, a vault, a wine cellar--slowly, with wonder and respect.

These photos, taken inside the chamber, with a dome of glowing leaves all around.

Extreme contortions and intertwinings make a maze of the branches, and the deep shade produced by the leaves makes for a bare, duffy floor inside the chamber.

I have spent many hours in such chambers, reading, studying, thinking, dreaming.  Here's the tree from afar. Would you know there was such a room within?

The garden variety Acer palmatum were at the absolute height of their glory on November 10. By the next day, they had their party dresses on the floor.

This sugar maple seems to have a gene for columnar shape, its beauty revealed only when it shed its clothes.

Not far away, the glacial erratic that marks the grave of the great scientist Louis Agassiz. Geologist, paleontologist, natural historian, Agassiz was the first to put forth the theory that ice sheets had ground over and sculpted our continent. This erratic was brought from the Aar Glacier in Switzerland to grace his resting place.

And near that, a mighty beech tree showing its imminent moment of mortality, bracket fungi marching up its flank.
High in the tree, a fern clings to life in a knothole. Magic all around.

And there's little quite as magical as leaves still green in Massachusetts in mid-November. I don't know what's going on, but I enjoyed this little reprise of summer and full salvo of fall, much more for being in the company of Kris. We managed to fit in two Mt. Auburn walks, two Fresh Pond walks, and two visits to the Watertown Diner in my five-day visit!

Even while the maples were on fire.

Graceful branches, black on scarlet.

Crimson lace.

A bold backdrop of gold.


Marimba graceful limbs and quiet tombs.

Little secret mounds of flame, beckoning the moths into their centers.


Wonderful, wonderful photos and commentary. Fresh Pond and Mt. Auburn are two of our favorite local spots, and of course we're not alone. If you get a chance next time and haven't already been there, get yourself over to Forest Hills Cemetery: a slightly different scale and style, but equally beautiful in a more rugged way. Glad your talks went so well; I'm sorry to have had to miss them.

I am breathless! Beautiful photos and wonderful information. Thank you so much.

Two of my favorite things - Japanese maples and cemeteries, and you've done such a marvelous job of making them magical. And it was interesting to learn that Louis Agassiz is buried there. I think about him whenever I see our desert tortoises, who are named in his honor (Gopherus agassizii). Thank you!

Wow - those trees are unbelievable. These photos were the perfect pick-me-up for a gray morning in the North Woods.

I live in Auburn, Georgia where I do the blogging for the folks at Good Apps. However, I will say the Mt Auburn trees are much prettier than ours. My wife and I have always wanted to see the trees change color on the east coast. We will need to plan that next year. Thanks for so many great pics! We really enjoyed them.

Gorgeous photos, all; I LOVE Japanese maples! However, that poor sugar maple looks to be the victim of butchering (mistakenly called "pruning" by some), resulting in multiple weak branches growing out from the cut stumps.

Wow--thank you Michelle--you learn something every day! Now that you mention it, the look of hundreds of water sprouts coming from a central point is consistent with the kind of branching brought about by trauma such as having one's head cut off. I suppose it's possible that it was wind-damaged, too. Mt. Auburn is mighty careful about caring for its trees and you don't tend to see pollarding in their specimens.
I saw a red maple showing the same branching pattern. Now you've got me thinking.
Thanks! I love to think.

Just an astonishing color, that Japanese Maple. I'm having a hard time assigning it a name, and am fine with that.

What a lovely resting place for all the souls at Mt. Auburn. Birds in the spring and glorious color in the fall. I bet they truly rest in peace.

I love them all, especially the Japanese maples. But my favorite is the next to bottom pic with those deep, deep crimsons against that screaming yellow-green, all flanked by glorious dark pine. You make me miss my years in Boston.

Around here, there are plenty of these maples dating back to the 1930's, all supposedly pruned and shaped by a single itinerant Japanese maplesmith. I was so inspired that I planted five Japanese maples of different hues in one grove, and they thrived, and five years later they were all dead of verticillium wilt. So apparently I can't have maples in my yard, except for vine maples. And I'd have nothing BUT maples if I could.

Stunning, really. A neighbors huge old japanese maple glows like these....seems like it is lit from within.

Is the still green leaves from the dreaded norway maple? They are the last to turn here as well, but at least have a bright yellow that my colorblind husband can appreciate.

Check out nycgarden dot blogspot dot com to see his photos of Greenwood Cemetery in nyc. (and then slide down further to see pics of his art showing in a small gallery....he paints the most still paintings of Prospect Park. I get my nyc fix from his and 66squarefoot blogs.)

Wayne, PA

Posted by Anonymous November 15, 2011 at 7:26 PM

What gorgeous trees! The pictures from the inside looking out are beautiful. Love all the twists and turns in the branches.


Posted by Pat Brannon November 16, 2011 at 6:01 AM

Let me join the chorus--lovely lovely photos.
I love Japanese maples, even though the one we had died an untimely death.

I've notice some of the same inconsistency of leaf color around here. That one tree barely tinged with autumn colors growing amid those of the same species with barely a leaf left. Jeff and I have both remarked on it as we drive interstate 77.

Just beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

You have totally outdone yourself with these pictures. Thanks for showing these trees to us.

That first photo is a masterpiece. It's like a photo of an ancient church - holy, divine, spiritual, graceful. Breathtaking in every respect of the word.

All I can say is WOW!!!!! I am totally speechless. This beauty is so breath-taking. I feel like you were invited into a small corner of heaven....

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