Just looking at all the beautiful colors of nature can put one in awe.
But one thing you may not know is the types of trees that all those fall colors represent. Knowing which trees have the yellow, red, orange, purple, brown or gold fall foliage is the challenging part.
To make it harder, the fall foliage of some trees turns sooner than others.
Let’s see if we can figure all this out. The following trees give an excellent and reliable show of fall color:
This is an easy one, right? There are two types of trees: deciduous and evergreen. Deciduous trees shed their leaves every fall, while evergreen trees keep there leaves year-round. Therefore, it is the deciduous trees that are responsible for the fall colors.
Each fall, the green leaves or green spots present in the landscape are the evergreen trees, which, in Alabama, include pine trees, eastern red cedars, magnolias and American hollies.
However, that rule can be tricky early in the season. The foliage of most oak trees usually remains green until late in the season. So until the foliage of all the deciduous trees turns to their respective colors, the evergreen trees won’t be quite as evident.
Red or scarlet
The trees with red or scarlet foliage are usually red maples, flowering dogwoods, northern red oaks, southern red oaks, scarlet oaks, Shumard oaks and Nuttall’s oaks.
Near and around homes, many people plant trees known for their red fall foliage, including Japanese maples, ornamental red maples, ornamental sugar maples and Japanese flowering cherries.
Mixed red, orange or gold
Ornamental sugar maples, crapemyrtles, sweetgums, blackgums, sourwoods, sassafras, Bradford pears and Chinese elms are the most popular trees with mixed red, orange or gold fall foliage.
In Alabama, sweetgum trees, known mostly for their nuisance “sweetgum balls,” are usually the first trees to splash the landscape with orange, then deep red fall foliage.
The ornamental Bradford pears, known mainly for their large white flowers in early spring, will also feature spectacular red foliage each fall.
Orange, yellow or gold
Sugar maples are No. 1 on my list because they are best known for their spectacular fall orange foliage. Examples of trees with orange, yellow or gold fall foliage include numerous ornamental maples, some Japanese maples, all native hickories, river birches, willow oaks, American beeches, green ash, yellow poplars and gingko trees.
Yellow poplars, sometimes called tulip trees, are among the first trees to turn buttery yellow at the first sign of cooler weather.
American beeches will hold their spectacular gold to tan leaves throughout the winter, until right before spring’s new growth.
Hickories go unnoticed throughout most of the year, but come alive in the fall with their bright golden leaves.
For the best pure, buttery yellow, nothing beats the ornamental ginkgo tree.
Occasionally, the color purple is seen amongst the fall foliage. Trees that sometimes display purple fall foliage are sweetgums, Chinese elms and white ash. Purple is not as common as the other colors, but seems to pop up in the landscape when you least expect it.
The leaves of most trees turn from green directly to brown, without any display of any other color.
Eventually, the trees that have red, orange, yellow, gold or purple fall foliage will also turn brown. Most leaves turn brown once they are dropped by the trees and dry out while laying on the ground.
(If a tree displays brown foliage for any significant amount of time, any time of the year, it could indicate that the tree is dead or dying.)
Dull brown, like the brighter colors, is part of the fall landscape and plays a role in the fall show.
Shane Harris is an extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. For help on other home and garden questions, contact your local county Extension office or visit www.aces.edu