Fall color develops with seasonal changes.

Autumn is also fall here. Actually, ‘fall’ is the more popular name. It had been the popular name in England during the Sixteenth Century. The (generally) French name of ‘autumn’ became more common there during the Seventeenth Century. Yet, both names remained in use in the American Colonies. That is why autumn foliar color is more simply fall color. 

The natural fall color in New England, the Appalachian Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and the Great North Woods is famously exquisite. So many of the native deciduous trees develop remarkable fall color in response to local weather conditions. These same trees might not get sufficient chill to develop comparable fall color in milder climates of Florida. 

In most regions of California, natural fall color is limited by the ability of native species to develop such color. Bigleaf maple and the various poplars turn bright yellow with a slight chill, but are not abundant. Even when chilled, the foliage of most other native deciduous trees simply shrivels and falls without much color. Most of the native trees are evergreen. 

Therefore, most of the best local fall color is provided by exotic (nonnative) tree species. Such trees not only develop remarkable fall color, but do so in response to minimal chill. Sweetgum, flowering pear, Chinese pistache and ginkgo are four trees that most reliably develop brilliant fall color where winter weather is mild. None are native. All are popular.

Ginkgo turns brilliant yellow. The other three display various colors that range from bright yellow, to fiery orange, to rich red and burgundy. Their colorful foliage lingers longer than that of other deciduous trees. Sweetgum and flowering pear might retain fall color until it succumbs to rain in winter. Of course, these are not the only options for reliable fall color. 

No tree is perfect. Although very colorful in autumn, sweetgum is notoriously structurally deficient, and produces obnoxiously spiked fruiting structures. Flowering pear is innately susceptible to fire blight. All deciduous trees drop leaves, which need raking. Trees must conform to their situational limitations, as well as their particular landscape applications.

4 thoughts on “Fall Color To Fall For

  1. It is truly a wonderful time of the year, especially for the camera. I celebrate Autumn being a Brit. Here in my part of the world, most of the trees eventually lose their leaves until Spring arrives, so we are confronted with a leaf carpet on the grounnd

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    1. Fall color is not so appreciated in California. So many of our prominent trees are evergreen or palm trees. I really do not know how I got such a appreciation for it, perhaps from the colorful orchards. One of my colleagues enjoyed the color so much that he took a bunch of sweetgum leaves that we needed to rake from one of the job sites, and dispersed it out on his own front lawn. The gardeners there were perplexed. There were no sweetgum trees around.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Does the sweetgum get frosted faster than it can develop color? It is a great tree for mild climates. I did not consider that it might not be so great for all climates.

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