September 26, 1852
The increasing scarlet and yellow tints around the meadows and the river remind me of the opening of a vast flower bud. They are the petals of its corolla, which is of the width of the valleys. It is the flower of autumn whose expanding bud just begins to blush. As yet however in the forest there are very few changes of foliage.
September 24, 1852
…Am surprised to find, by Botrychium Swamp, a Rhus Radicans* …, – growing in the midst of a clump of barberry bushes which it overhangs. It is now at the height of its change, very handsome scarlet and yellow, and I not at first know what it was.
October 24, 1858
The brilliant autumnal colors are red and yellow and the various tints–hues and shades of these. Blue is reserved to be the color of the sky**, but yellow and red are the colors of the earth flower. Every fruit on ripening, and just before its fall, acquires a bright tint. So do the leaves–so the sky before the end of the day, and the year near its setting. October is the red sunset sky–November the later twilight…The scarlet oak…is now in its glory…Look at one completely changed from green to bright dark scarlet–every leaf, as if it had been dipped into a scarlet dye, between you and the sun. Was not this worth waiting for? Little did you think ten days ago that that cold green tree could assume such color as this.
*Rhus Radicans is poison ivy **and the sea all around us
Log entries focused on Thoreau’s observations of flowers in Concord, MA, are gathered together into a wonderful volume, ed. Geoff Wisner.
September 19, 1854
Thinking this afternoon of the prospect of my writing lectures and going abroad to read them the next winter, I realized how incomparably great the advantages of obscurity and poverty which I have enjoyed so long (and may still perhaps enjoy). I thought with what more than princely, with what poetical leisure I had spent my years hitherto, without care or engagement, fancy free. I have given myself up to nature. I have lived so many springs and summers and autumns and winters as if I had nothing else to do but live them–and imbibe whatever nutriment they had for me. I have spent a couple of years, for instance, with the flowers chiefly, having none other so binding engagement as to observe when they opened. I could have afforded to spend a whole fall observing the changing tints of the foliage.
Wisner, Geoff, editor. Thoreau’s Wildflowers, Henry David Thoreau. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016. Features drawings by Barry Moser from the 1979 book, “Flowering Plants of Massachusetts.”
A Barry Moser whale drawing is featured on the Gloucester HarborWalk whale marker.