Colors and Trees in the Fall
Summer is long and we are surrounded by green. Everything is green and in a matter of days the leaves begin to change and a magical time of the year explodes in color. Responding to day length, the green pigment in the leaves of trees (chlorophyll) begins to break down and the other pigments in the leaves which have always been present, have their time to shine.
The seasonal affect is wonderful and the colors are spectacular. Red, orange, and yellow make up the color scheme that all of us who live east of the Mississippi River know as autumn. I want to share with you a way to tell trees by their fall color. Trees turn the same color every year so it’s easy to understand what the woods look once the leaves change colors. Fall color lasts for about two weeks and in Middle Tennessee we are beginning to see dramatic change right now. Unfortunately, the colors have been dampened by the unseasonably excessive rain we are experiencing, especially the weeks of rain from the late summer continuing through early fall. I am afraid that this year many of the leaves will drop green due to the fungal growth and no time for the leaves to dry out and release the tannins and other pigments.
In spite of the rains, fall is still here and the colors are changing on many of the trees. Dogwoods are the red leaves in the color scheme. Their ripe berries are also red so that makes their color change have even more depth and impact. Red oaks and Shummard oaks also turn red or maroon in the fall. Boston Ivy and Virginia creeper are famous for their red fall color, even the dreaded Poison Ivy has a spectacular deep red color. I can’t forget about all those pretty maples that turn red, but some of the best color comes from maples that turn orange or golden yellow.
The best known maples that turn orange in the fall are the sugar maples. The sweet nature of these trees that provides us with maple syrup in the early spring also makes certain that orange is prevalent in the autumnal landscape. Some cherries that are grown for their spring blossoms and not for fruit also have a lovely orange fall color display. One of the most dependable trees that changes to orange is the Tulip Poplar. One of the giants in the forest and the state tree of Tennessee, its color in the fall is breathtaking.
Trees that turn yellow in the fall may seem a little ordinary, but reliable golds and clear yellows are valuable elements in the landscape and make for great pleasure while driving around leading our busy lives. Gingko trees have the clearest golden yellow of any tree that I can think of. The golden fan-shaped leaves make the tree seem like something from another time. In fact, Gingkos can be traced to the fossil record. Maples can provide a showy clear yellow fall display. Eastern Redbuds provide a lower story yellow to light the dark days of fall.
I love this time of year and I encourage all of you to take some time and notice how special the changing of the seasons really is.