Fall colors!

This month I’d like to talk about the beautiful fall foliage we see this time of year.  You may be interested to know that the most intense coloring is unique to eastern North America and the Orient.  There are some red fall colors in the pacific northwest but the western states are primarily conifers and poplars (cottonwood) which are bright yellow.  Yes, yellow is a fall color and it makes beautiful mountain scenery!  But when folks ask me for a nice tree for fall color in Central Ohio they are usually looking for red.  Europe is also devoid of red fall color.  Their trees are also primarily conifers and deciduous trees that turn yellow in the fall.

We are world-famous for those brilliant reds.  Fall color tours are a tourist industry in New England and many other areas.  Last year my wife and I took a fall color train ride through West Virginia.  The locals referred to us as “leaf lookers”   Of course the timing of peak fall color is a moving target.  Frost typically triggers it which is normally mid-October, but dryness will promote early coloration.  Waiting too late can be a problem as wind and rain will defoliate those leaves.

Most of the red colors come from maples but there are also other nice red and orange trees.  The brilliant orange is the sugar maple, which is the maple leaf of Canadian fame.  It’s also the brilliant orange tree we walk under around Halloween time.  Sugar maples prefer high ground with good drainage so around here they are more common in Logan county, where you also find many maple sugar “camps”.  The red maple has nice red foliage in fall and predominates in the lower ground like Union County.  Many people mistakenly think that “red maple” is the crimson leaved Norway maple which has no appreciable fall color.  In fact, most of the purple-leaved trees of summer aren’t real pretty in the fall.  That’s why I prefer a green-leaved Japanese maple to the more popular purple one.

Other nice reds from the eastern USA include serviceberry, black gum, sassafras, sweetgum (multicolored from yellow to purple!).  Of course, there are also many shrubs with nice fall colors as well.  Some of these include the popular “burning bush”, but also the native viburnums, itea, diervilla, and spicebush.

Enjoy the cool clear weather, crisp nights, and wonderful fall foliage!