Deep Autumn is Settling In and Brilliant Color is Everywhere


Sugar Maple
Sugar Maple

Deep autumn is settling in. The last days of late afternoon sun lights the still hanging leaves like bits of stained glass.

The shades of red, yellow, oranges and golds shift and intensify in the coolness of the season.

The rains of late, late autumn will bring the leaves down off the trees. One windy storm can beat the trees bare.

The fall color seems later than in years past. This second week of November has seen the most brilliant autumn colors. Usually, the spectacular color is in the last week of October. It is now the second week of November.

Climate change? Warm weather? Too much rain? I don’t know why the color is so late.


Overall, I think there is less fall color along city and suburban streets. And there seems one main reason for this, humans in these areas are planting fewer native trees.

It is mostly native trees which provide the fall color. Fewer than two dozen common and widespread native species are responsible for the fall extravaganza.

Across the North American continent perhaps 100 native woody species provide the colorful leaf changes that so delights the eye.

Red Maple leaves
Red Maple leaves

Oaks, maples, birches, hickories, ashes, gums, Sycamore, Tulip poplar and dogwoods provide most of the fall color in the North American forests and woodlands.

There are local indigenous species of each of these trees in most temperate areas of North America. There is are color changing species for nearly everyone.

Here in Philadelphia, Oaks (White, Scarlet, Red and Black) provide reds and browns. Sugar Maples, Tulip poplars and Redbuds give luscious yellows. Dogwoods display deep maroons.

Red Maple
Red Maple

In gardens and along streets humans often chose plants because they stay green in the winter. This also means they stay green in the fall, too.

The vine English Ivy stays green all year-long. The native vine Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) has shades of red and maroon leaves.

The native woody species of trees, shrubs and vines are adapted to the onset of winter dormancy signaled by drier weather, less daylight and cooler temperatures. This is why leaves change colors in the fall.

Are we destroying the brilliant autumn leaf-changing event of the Eastern part of North America by planting non-native trees, shrubs and vines?

Sugar Maple
Sugar Maple

My Flickr Autumn in Philadelphia photostream.

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