Micro-Season: The Maple and Ivy Turn Yellow (2022)

We have entered the micro-season of “The Maple and the Ivy Turn Yellow”.  This is the third micro-season of the mini-season of Frost Descent.  The micro-seasons within Frost Descent are:

  • The First Frost Falls (Oct 23 – Oct 27)
  • Light Rain Showers (Oct 28 –  Nov 01)
  • The Maple and the Ivy Turn Yellow (Nov 02 – Nov 07)

These seasons were established in 1685 by Japanese astronomer Shibuka Shunkai and are specific to Japan. However, just because the calendar focuses on Japan doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to others.  No matter where you live you can use these seasons as a starting point for your personal exploration of the world around you. 

As a way to celebrate this season, we will learn about what causes leaves to change color and then read some haiku by Issa, Basho, and Buson.

The Leaves Turn Color

During the spring and summer, a tree’s leaves are green.  The leaves are green because they have a pigment known as chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is an essential pigment for trees because it transforms the sun’s energy into nutrients in a process known as photosynthesis.  The leaves appear green because chlorophyll does not absorb the green wavelength of white light.  The green wavelength is instead reflected off the chlorophyll. Because of the reflection, the leaves appear green to the human eye.(1)

As we transition into autumn, the overall amount of daylight decreases, and the trees reduce the amount of chlorophyll produced.  Once this happens, the other pigments that are contained within the leaves begin to appear.

A leaf will appear yellow when the pigment known as xanthophylls is present.  Orange colors come from pigments known as carotenoids, and the reds come from a pigment known as anthocyanins.(2) The exact color of the autumn leaves depends on various factors including mixing all the pigments and any residual chlorophyll.  

The Intensity of Colors

Temperature, light, and the amount of available water all impact the colors and duration of the foliage season.  The U.S. Forest Service explains,

“A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions – lots of sugar and light – spur the production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson.”(3)

It is also known that an early frost diminishes many of the bright colors, while rainy days tend to increase the intensity of fall colors.  

Red Leaves Photo by Nguyen Hung on Pexels.com
Photo by Nguyen Hung

Foliage Seasons

New England 

The typical foliage season for New England starts in mid-September and runs until late October.  However, if you travel to southern Massachusetts or parts of Cape Cod at this time you may still be able to see some colors on the trees.


In early November, Japan is in the middle of its peak foliage season.  The northern regions of Japan, including the island of Hokkaido, start their foliage as early as September. By mid-November, peak foliage season has reached Kyoto.  The foliage line continues down to Tokyo in late November and Fukuoka in early December.(4) See the map below for the peak viewing times based on location.

Seasonal haiku

The World Kigo Database explains that “leaf” or “leaves” as a stand-alone word is not a kigo. However, adding seasonal qualifiers allow for the leaves to become seasonal references.

An example of this is that “young leaves” or “fresh leaves” place a haiku in spring or summer.  In autumn, “red leaves”, “yellow leaves” and “red autumn leaves” are common kigo.  Whereas “withered leaves” or “decayed leaves” would place the haiku in winter.   For this week’s haiku selection, we are going to focus on autumn haiku. 


who might be living
red leaves fall
(translated by  David G. Lanoue)
pine's ivy--
after leaves turn red
cut down
(translated by David G. Lanoue)
treading untrodden
earth to see...
evening's red leaves
(translated by David G. Lanoue)


written letters, yes
not colored leaves raked up
burned after reading 
(translated by Jane Reichhold) 
May this Shinto priest
sweep away my name – into
the River of Fallen Leaves 
(translated by Sam Hamill) 
so very precious:
are they tinting my tears?
falling crimson leaves 
(translated by David Landis Barnhill)
ivy leaves
giving the feeling of antiquity
autumn foliage 
(translated by Jane Reichhold)


fallen willow leaves —
the clear stream gone dry,
stones here and there
(referenced by Haruo Shirane)

A Haiku Invitation

This week’s haiku invitation is to write a haiku or senryu that references autumn leaves.

Share your haiku in the comments below, or post on your own page and link back to this post. I can’t wait to read what you write!  


  1. “Chlorophyll”; National Geographic
  2. “Why Do Leaves Change Color?”; SciJinks-NOAA
  3. “Science of Fall Colors”; US Forest Service
  4. JapanRail Pass, Autumn in Japan: 2022 Fall Foliage Forecast
  5. “Leaves of All Seasons”; World Kigo Database

Issa’s haiku were retrieved from David G. Lanoue’s Haiku Guy.  Basho’s haiku were retrieved from “Matsuo Bashō’s haiku poems in romanized Japanese with English translations” editor: Gábor Terebess.  Buson’s haiku was retrieved from “Beyond the Haiku Moment: Bashō, Buson, and Modern Haiku Myths” by Haruo Shirane.

Buy me a coffee link

“Let the universe be your companion, bearing in mind the true nature of things—mountains and rivers, trees and grass, and humanity – and enjoy the falling blossoms and scattered leaves.”

Matsuo Basho

42 thoughts on “Micro-Season: The Maple and Ivy Turn Yellow (2022)

Add yours

    1. Hi Jerome, Thanks for joining the conversation and sharing your work! It is that time of year when the rotten pumpkins rest in the corners of yards waiting for the raccoons. Or perhaps the raccoons are waiting for the pumpkins?

      1. A chicken and egg truly haha, but indeed a fitting match, you make me wonder where raccoons fit on the traditional saijiki, now seems about perfect for sure, worth submitting to the English Kigo Project for inclusion if not yet formally recognized! ^^

      2. That is very interesting! I have heard about the English Kigo Project but don’t know much about it. I will take a look. Thanks!

    2. Dear Mark and Jerome,

      Hi! I shall join the conversation musically. First of all, Mark, I like your chosen photos and your seasonal haikus. All of those colourful leaves remind me of the 1945 popular French song “Les feuilles mortes” (literally “The Dead Leaves”) sung by Edith Piaf and Yves Montand with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert, and later translated into English as “Autumn Leaves” by the American songwriter Johnny Mercer in 1947.

      Included here is the version sung by Nat King Cole. It is indeed a very nostalgic song. I hope that both of you like it.

      Happy late autumn and Happy early November to both of you!

      Yours sincerely,

      1. Phenomenal analogy between falling leaves and Edith Piaf, I have an entire Autumnal split sequence inspired by her recently I collaborated with Kati Mohr on, the biopic is one of those few movies I never get tired of. Fascinating evolution of that tune, really captures the seasonal feeling and atmosphere 100%!

      2. Dear aortic,

        Hi there! Thank you for joining our conversation with such a glorious debut of your infectious musical passion and knowledge. You obviously have fine musical taste and a connoisseur of the French diva. Speaking of nostalgic songs, I also like those of Michel Legrand and Francis Lai. In one of my latest posts, I have included a lot of autumn music and songs, which are available in my post entitled “🌤️🍂 An October to Remember: Greeting Post-Pandemic and Post-Elizabethan Age 👑🏰 with Opals, Calendulas, Poems and Songs 📿🏵️📜🎶“, published at


        Please enjoy to your heart’s content!

        Yours sincerely,

      3. Thanks for adding in a musical contribution to the conversation about leaves! Glad you joined and I hope you have a great weekend.

  1. Those are all glorious haikus, Mark. Love them! We had snow yesterday/last night and today it seems as if every single locust tree is dropping leaves. Yes, other species are losing leaves but not at this rate. I don’t remember seeing in years past seeing yards blanketed with them or puddles of locust leaves on the streets. Or the car covered with them that I used for my Friday Haiku today. Anyway, just kinda weird, man. 🙂

    1. Hi Tracy,
      Our weather has been weird this year too. It is actually supposed to be in the high 60s today. I believe that it snowed at least once by this time last year. I saw that picture of the locust leaves on the car from your post. Wow!
      Glad you enjoyed the haiku. Have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Thattamma,
      Yes, we are at that time of year where it feels more like winter sometimes than it does autumn. Thanks for joining the conversation! Have a good day.

    1. The reds on maples and crepe myrtles are wonderful! My attention has definitely turn to squirrels lately. They seem to be very busy getting ready for the colder weather.

  2. autumn leaves
    behind summer colors
    I rake them up

    I actually wrote this earlier this week so a wonderful synergy.

    1. Hi Eavonka, This is wonderful and it is based in the sciences. What a great alignment! Thanks so much for sharing your work here! I may have to connect with Jerome and see if we can put together a Naturalist Weekly Haiku anthology.

      1. Oh, I think that is an excellent idea, Mark! So lovely to divide by the micro-seasons and your words followed by haiku. Almost like a non-fiction haibun journal.

      2. Yes! I like that. I have been really interested in trying to make some sort of complete work out of this project. One idea I had was to create a journal/workbook of some sort that allowed people to take it out in the world and write their own seasonal haiku. I was thinking a little bit of text and then a blank page or two.

      3. Marvelous idea, Mark. It would be great as it could also be used if you wanted to give small talks with it at libraries or classes or what have you.

      1. Hi Mark, Normally, I don’t explain haiku because I feel like the poem needs to stand on its own merit (or my writing needs to…), but because gingko trees are such an unusual tree, I thought an explanation was in order. Glad you liked the haiku. ~nan

  3. Thanks Mark, Loved this post and had just been thinking of that kind of melancholy that sets in at the end of autumn—the Adirondacks were quite glorious again this year.

    Yellow leaves remain
    Holding on
    For their red friends

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation and sharing your poem! I like the idea of the leaves hanging on and waiting for others. Very whimsical.
      Thanks again for joining!

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