Zoe Lucas presents the subtle autumn colours of Sable Island

Cape Breton enjoyed unusually spectacular fall foliage this year, as brilliant as I have ever seen. For a completely different take on autumn colours, in a part of Nova Scotia most of us never get to see first hand, check out the magnificent photo essay Zoe Lucas has just posted on the website of the Sable Island Institute.

As Lucas points out, Sable’s fall palette is subtler than the ostentatious yellows and crimsons of the Highlands, but if anything, richer and more complex.

During September and October, the vegetated terrain of Sable Island becomes a tapestry of pale yellow, tan, amber, buffy, sienna, orange, red and purple, with the greens of juniper and crowberry woven throughout. The island’s fall colours are often enhanced by the winds of tropical storms, and sometimes hurricanes. During such storms, foliage on the windward sides of shrubs is sandblasted and browned as high winds sweep across the island carrying sand from the beach and inland blowouts. When the storms pass, the landscape is richer than ever in complexion and detail. Late-season flowers such as goldenrod and aster, the bright reds of berries, and the blues and greys of floodwaters and big clouds make for a season energized with colour and pattern.

Lucas has lived on Sable for most of the last half century, an intellectual omnididact, watching, noticing, studying, and recording a vast wealth of detail ranging from beach litter to marram grass to sharks’ teeth. As these photographs make plain, she is also a gifted artist. No one has contributed more to scientific understanding and public appreciation of the island. The Sable Island Institute is her latest effort to consolidate and expand this work. You can donate to the institute here.

Photo: Zoe Lucas