The sweetgum tree fills the swampy ground along the St. Johns “branches” and sheds its maple-like leaves in December. Sailing up the broad river you may trace the swampy spots now by the soft gray of bare twigs of the sweet gum, in beautiful contrast to the glossy dark green of live-oak and the paler silkiness of plumy tops of the long-leaved pines of the barrens. Its roots dispute the very black depths of the flowing waters with those of the cypress, and its purpling autumn leaves seem like those of a Massachusetts swamp maple that have by some mischance ripened without vividness. The sour-gum tree, which is nothing more than the tupelo which grows on the swamp edges at home, thrives as well in Florida and is true to its colors. The rich red of its leaves makes the most vivid blotches of autumn coloring I have yet found here. Along with the scuppernong grows its cousin vine, the Virginia creeper. This too holds much of its Northern red in the passing leaves. The homesick Northerner in Florida at this time of year will do well to take to the swamps. The pinky gray of baring sweet-gum twigs, the rich red of the bordering tupelos and the festooning ampelopsis will do much to make him feel at home.
Through this border tangle one goes to enter the solemn silence of the swamp where the black water seems to listen as it glides breathlessly by to the river. In the steaming warmth of mid-summer the place must drip with purple shadows. Now because the sweet gums and swamp maples are losing their leaves, it holds only a sun-flecked twilight that soothes after the black shadows beneath the orange trees and the glare of the sand. Here one may draw a long breath and let the bustle of a busy world slip from him. I have the same feeling on entering a church of a week day and hearing the heavy ticking of the clock. The silence broods. The maples are already bare, the gum trees partly, and the feathery fronds of cypress have grown brown on the trees and in part fallen, slipping one by one to the placid surface where they add their color to the purple of the other thick-strewn leaves.
Copyright, 1910
By Small, Maynard and Company