P71029+Remember the movie from 1988? I don’t either. I never saw it. Gang violence is not my idea of a good time. The title ‘Colors’ refers to the use of distinguishing colors by the gangs of Los Angeles. Gang members wear colors that correspond to their respective gang affiliation.

As autumn progresses, some of us get to gloat about our colors. New England gets the most and best colors, with a full range of reds, oranges and yellows, as well as browns and burgundies. The Appalachian Mountains to the south seem to go lighter on the reds and burgundies, concentrating more on oranges. The upper Midwest around Minnesota excels at the rich reds, with yellows confined to groves of cottonwoods. The lower Midwest does well with clear browns alternating with yellows, and even some oranges. The Rocky Mountains have a good range of color, with more gold than the Appalachians Mountains, but it is not as spectacularly concentrated. The bright colors contrast more with evergreens.

Here on the West Coast, we have yellow. . . . and redwoods . . . and palm trees. The bright yellow cottonwoods are quite flashy farther inland and in Nevada, where they grow along creeks and rivers that flow through the southern deserts. The only orange and rusty red we get from native specie here is from poison oak. Cottonwoods, willows, sycamores, box elders and even the bigleaf maples all turn yellow; and only when the weather is just so. Box elder foliage is more likely to shrivel and turn tan. Sycamore and willow foliage usually gets rather shabby.

To get the bright oranges and reds that everyone else in American enjoys, we plant exotic (non-native) trees; and there are not many choices that color reliably in our mild climate. Sweetgum is probably the most reliable, and the most variable with its color. Pistache and flowering pear are the second best choices, although flowering pear has a serious problem with fireblight here. Gingko colors very nicely, but is limited to yellow, which we already have a bit of.

While everyone else is posting pictures of their autumn color online and bragging to Californians about it, our color is only beginning to develop here. The most reliably colorful of the exotic trees seem to be doing well; but the natives and some of the exotics are defoliating prematurely, without much color at all. Honeylocusts have dropped most of their foliage while it is still lemon-lime green. Box elders just look sickly. Cottonwoods drop leaves as soon as they turn yellow, leaving only green leaves up in their canopies. The English walnut in the picture is the best color I could find.

It happens this way sometimes. This year, it might be a result of the unusually warm weather so late in summer, after the weather had already started to turn milder. It is impossible to say for certain. We take what we can get. We are not known for autumn color here.



8 thoughts on “Colors

    1. There are a few exotic specie that color very reliably, even in our mild weather, but autumn color is not a priority here. I still wonder what a ‘real’ winter would be like, but I certainly would not want to liver anywhere else for too long.

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  1. Tony, very interesting observations of regional variations in autumn foliage. I haven’t noticed similar variations in my part of the world, but will be more observant of this in future! Where I live (an inland town in eastern Australia), the ornamental Manchurian Pear is our town’s pride and joy. There’s an avenue planted along our main street. Their autumn leaves are various shades of yellow with sprinklings of deeper reds and oranges, followed by masses of white blossom for a few weeks in October.

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    1. We have a flowering (calleryana) pear here that might be similar. It colors very reliably here even in our mild winters, but it is also very susceptible to fireblight. You may not notice such variation if all the color is from the same exotic specie that everyone grows all over the place. For example, the sweetgum colors in San Jose just like it does in Pennsylvania, Maine or North Carolina. It is the natives that really show the distinctive regional colors. When I was in Oklahoma about this time of year, I was amazed by all the monochromatic brown! I know it sounds silly because it was not a particularly pretty shade of brown. It was just weird to see so much of it among the blackjack oaks. There was other color outside of the neighborhood too, but it was interesting how distinctive it was.

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  2. Interesting observations, Not much autumn colour in my area Tony, but 2 years ago we did a house sit in Canberra and I adored their autumn colours they were stunning. Being from UK I do miss the change of seasons, but I don’t think I could survive in the cold winters anymore

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