Nature Almanac for October 2020

Sedum 'autumn Joy' in my garden in October
Sedum ‘autumn Joy’ in my garden in October

Here in Philadelphia…

The leaves have not turned, yet.  Usually by now the Shadbush tree in my backyard has deep yellow leaves on a good portion of the tree. The leaves today are just a pale, light green.

Why Leaves Change Color

Why Trees Shed Their Leaves

I don’t know if we’ll have a good show of autumn color this year.  Fall foliage reports for Pennsylvania can be found on the Commonwealth’s website at


shadbush in October, little color change
Shadbush tree in my garden still green in October.

Pennsylvania generally has the longest fall foliage season on Earth!

To find areas with fall foliage, do an Internet search with the phrase, “fall foliage” and include the name of the state or maybe even the country.

Lantern Flies

The Lantern Flies… are well, dropping like flies. I noticed in early September the Lantern Flies were slower. I saw many dead ones on the ground, not including the ones people  stepped on. Something about this climate, may not be to their liking. We can only hope.

Several times this summer Lantern Flies have hitched a ride on the back of my shirt and come into my house. I found two dead ones in my basement. And several dead ones in my back garden.

Getting Rid of the Spotted Lantern Fly

White Snakeroot in my garden.

It is a soggy, rainy morning.  During a walk through my garden, I was met with bedraggled flowers and no flying insects. The insects I did see were dead, right on the plant where they were collecting nectar or pollen. They died right in their tracks. Creepy.

Poisonous White Snakeroot

The poisonous native plant, White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), grows in my garden. I like the plant because it blooms with lovely white flowers when few plants are still blooming.

White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) with dead bee in my garden.
White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) with dead bee in my garden.

White Snakeroot is responsible for a sickness called, ‘milk sickness’. Cows that eat the plant pass the poison along in their milk. Milk sickness killed thousands of Europeans in the U.S.  in the 18th and 19th centuries.


White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) with dead Bumle bee in my garden.
White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) with dead Bumble bee in my garden.

What I find interesting is the dead insects on the plant. These insects were in the middle of drinking nectar and died. There hasn’t been a frost yet. Perhaps, White Snakeroot poisoned these unfortunate bees.

See the wikipedia articles on White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) and my post White Snakeroot, Pretty but Poisonous.


Did You Know?

Midnight Sun At the South Pole – the Sun never sets from September 23rd to March 20th,

At the South Pole from the Autumn Equinox until the Spring Equinox of the following year the Sun can be seen 24 hours a day at the polar regions. For six months the Sun never sets or sinks below the horizon. This is the time when this region is called, “The Land of the Midnight Sun”.

Season Dates

  • Autumn Equinox – September 21st
  • Winter Solstice – December 21st
  • From the Autumn Equinox to the Winter Solstice is 89 days  ad 20 hours.

In the Sky This Month

  • Full Moon – October 1st, Harvest Moon
  • Last Quarter – October 9th
  • New Moon – October 16th
  • First Quarter – October 23rd
  • Full Moon – October 31st, Full Hunter’s Moon

The Harvest Moon is the time when the food storage crops of corn for flour and meal, winter squash with tough outer shells, and beans dried on the vine are harvested and stored for autumn and winter eating.

The Hunter’s Moon is the time to hunt for winter food stores.

Best Fishing – When the Moon is between New and Full: October 16 through 31

  • New moon always rises near sunrise
  • First Quarter near noon
  • Full Moon always rises near sunset
  • Winter Full Moons are high in the sky at midnight
  • Last Quarter rises around midnight
  • Moonrise occurs about 50 minutes later each day

In the Sky

Circumpolar Constellations – from latitude 40 degree north – these constellations are always in the sky: Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia, Draco, Cepheus, and Camelopaedalis.  See the post, Circumpolar Constellations in the NIght Sky.

Autumn Star Constellations

These major constellations are visible in the night sky

  • In the Northern Sky: Pegasus, Andromeda, Perseus, Triangulum
  • In the Southern Sky: Pisces, Aries, Aquarius, Capricornus

Meteor Showers

Orionids  Meteor Shower on October 21 and 22, 2020. The showers last for four days. Expect 15 meteors per hour. Watch for these fast moving, falling stars in the predawn sky. Look toward the southern sky.

Birding This Month

Waterfowl and hawks are migrating south in earnest.

Animals Activity This Month

Timber rattlesnakes move to their winter dens.

Soggy, bedraggled New England Asters in my garden.
Soggy, bedraggled New England Asters in my garden.

Plant Activity This Month

Leaves change colors.  See the post Why Do Leaves Change Color

Deciduous trees and shrubs shed their leaves. See the post Why Trees Shed Their Leaves in the Fall (with a Video)

The last of the fall blooming plants like New England Asters and White Snakeroot are in bloom.

Nature Journaling This Season

How Autumn Works

Autumn nature journal and prompts

Citizen Science Events to Participate In

Project Budburst (year around)

Check SciStarter for season-focused citizen science projects.

That’s it for this issue. Look for the next issue of the Nature Almanac at the end of October.

Donna's signature

One comment

  1. Wow this is so interesting! It’s really neat to read about the snakeroot plant. Also the spotted lantern fly oh no! I didn’t realize they were in the US! Apparently a few were found in California (eeek!) I looked them up but couldn’t find out if they were established. I wonder if the fires will delay their coming here.. Anyway, I hope you are enjoying the beginning of autumn!

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