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Forest Forensics: A Wolf Tree Tells a Tale

wolf tree at Schuylkill Center


wolf tree at Schuylkill Center
wolf tree at Schuylkill Center

While walking through a forest,  the scorned trees and deadfall trees tell tales.  The tree pictured above lives in the forest of the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education.

Observing This Tree in the Forest

Look at the ways in which the branches spiral around the tree in all directions. The trees in the background are smaller, thinner and obviously younger than the larger tree in the center. The younger trees also are smooth and branch-less almost to the top of the tree.

What does this tell us?

  1. The large center tree is older than the surrounding  trees.
  2. It grew without many trees around it. How do we know this? Because the branches are on each side of the tree, which means it grew without others trees crowding it around it.


This tree is a pasture tree or a “wolf tree”. Wolf? I don’t know why, I think because it grew alone, like a lone wolf.

Former Villages, Farms, and Pasture Lands

The Schuylkill Center was farmland until the 1950s. It is odd to think of it but the northwest section of the city of Philadelphia was covered with farms during the 1920s and end to the 1950s. So, this tree was probably a tree in a pasture with no other trees surrounding  it. It was left standing to shade cows, sheep or other livestock.

The Schuylkill Center is located just off of Ridge Avenue. The road is called “Ridge Avenue” because the land is a ridge. One side facing west is the WIssahickon Valley Forest Park, then the ridge, and the east side is a rocky hilly, forest (the Center). Keep going west and you run into the Schuylkill River, which flows into the Delaware River, which flows into the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

Before the European-American farms, the Ridge was dotted with Lenape Native American villages and agricultural fields and gardens. They were wonderfully situated. The Wissahickon Valley and the Schuylkill Center forest were hunting grounds. The fish and crustacean filled waters which drew many waterfowl were a short distance away. It is no wonder the Europeans coveted the land.

But I think the land Ridge-Wissahickon area was good for the simple, natural lifestyle of the Lenape. It didn’t work as well for the complicated industrialized lifestyle of the Europeans. For many reasons all the farms are now gone, replaced by subdivisions and city neighborhoods.

Knowing the History of the Land

When I drive or walk in the area, knowing how different groups of people live in the land helps to decipher the signs and reasons behind features of the land.

Below I listed two books which can help you decipher signs.

Works Consulted

These links are affiliate links. I may earn a commission for Amazon purchases using the links. This does not affect the price you pay.

Forest Forensics: A Field Guide to Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels

The Sierra Club Guide to the Ancient Forests of the Northeast by Bruce Kershner and Robert T. Leverett


More Winter Posts

Snags: Homes for Animals

Winter Animal Signs

Storing Food for the Winter (How to Hoard)


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Choosing Street Trees (Philadelphia and the MidAtlantic)

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)

Choosing street trees can be overwhelming task. There are a few key points to consider, native species, location of power lines, and a few others.

Spring and Fall are the ideal times to plant trees here on the east coast. The City of Philadelphia gives out free native trees to city residents every spring and fall through the Tree Philly Campaign.  The times I have volunteered during giveaway days, only native trees were given out. Residents had a choice between small or large trees.

The Tree Philly helpers explain how to plant and tree care to residents that pick up trees. To find out more about the program and sign-up, visit the Tree Philly website.


Glowing gold leaves in the Wissahickon Valley Park. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Glowing gold leaves in the Wissahickon Valley Park. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Choosing Street Trees for Tough Urban and Suburban Conditions

Fairmount Park provides a “Recommended Street Tree List” that consists of both native and non-native trees. I modified that list by removing the non-native trees. The original list has more trees that are suitable to harsh urban conditions of pollution, soil compaction and lack of water. It is just that those extra trees are not native to Philadelphia. Native trees are the best choice in boosting the city’s ecosystem.

The best results will come from matching the tree to the situation. Small and medium trees will work best under power lines. Taller trees will work best with no overhead power lines, as them may not need to be trimmed. If you live in Philadelphia, PECO (Philadelphia Electric COmpany) does a horrible job trimming street trees. Once the PECO folks are finished whacking, our street trees looked like monsters from a science fiction movie. It seems like the PECO trimmers are mad that there are trees at all.

This Common trees of PA booklet is a handy guide to use to learn the most common trees that make up Pennsylvania and Philadelphia habitats.

A similar List of Native Trees for Philadelphia Backyards and other less stressed situations.

Street trees long the Quai De Conti in Paris. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Street trees along the Quai De Conti in Paris. Photo by Donna L. Long, 2014. All rights reserved.

Your Street Trees, Powerlines, and Planting By the Curb

Here is a tip I learn from the folks in charge of trimming street trees here in Philly. The tips probably work in other urban/suburban areas, too. Look at the power lines that run across your property. If there are three or more lines running above the street, this is a major power line and trees under these lines will be cut (mangled) to insure power. You may want to not plant a tree underneath these wires or carefully prune a small tree to let the wires pass freely through the trees.

If you have no power lines or only one where you want to plant, then you lucked out. Busy PECO won’t cut those trees as they don’t interfere with important power lines.

If you want to plant a tree by a curb, it has to be big and strong enough to survive being backed into. A thin, delicate dogwood, will have a hard time surviving being parked under.

See also Paris Lessons: Street Trees and Strolling in the Shade


places - forest
Forbidden Drive, Wissahickon Valley Park, Philadelphia. Photo by Donna L. Long. 

A List of City Street Trees

The following list only has trees that are native to Philadelphia. All the trees will tolerate harsh urban conditions. Choosing street trees that have a broad open canopy will give wide-spread shade. It takes a tree ten to fifteen years to grow enough to give shade. Even smaller forty-foot tall trees can give shade and cut summer cooling bills.

Small Trees – (mature height under 30 feet)
Amelanchier x grandiflora — Seviceberry
Carpinus caroliniana — American Redbud
Crataegus crusgalli var. inermis — Thornless Cockspur Hawthorn
Prunus virginiana — Common Chokecherry
Prunus virginiana — “Shubert” — Canada Red Chokecherry

Medium Trees – (mature height 30 feet to 40 feet)
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis — Thornless Honeylocust
Ostrya virginiana – Hop Hornbeam

Large Trees – (mature height over 45 feet)
Acer rubrum “Autumn Flame” — Autumn Flame Red Maple
Acer rubrum “Red Sunset” — Red Sunset Red Maple
Acer saccharum “Green Mountain” — Green Mountain Sugar Maple
Fraxinus americana ” Autumn Purple” — Autumn Purple White Ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica “Marshall’s Seedless” — Green Ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica “Patmore” — Patmore Ash
Fraxinus pennsylvanica “Summit” — Summit Ash
Quercus shumardii — Shumard Oak

Narrow Streets
Acer rubrum “Armstrong” — Fastigate Red Maple
Acer saccharum “Goldspire” — Goldspire Maple
Quercus palustris “Pringreen” — Green Pillar Pin Oak


Boulevard or Park Trees
Carya glabra — Pignut Hickory
Carya ovata — Shagbark Hickory
Juniperus virginiana — “princeton Sentry” — Eastern Redcedar
Liquidambar styraciflua — Tuliptree
Nyssa sylvatica — Black Tupelo
Quercus alba — White Oak
Quercus bicolor — Swamp White Oak
Quercus palustris — Pin Oak
Quercus phellos — Willow Oak
QUercus rubra — Red Oak
Ulmus americana “Delaware” — Delaware American Elm


I hope post was helpful in choosing street trees. I of course could not choose trees suitable for all regions of the continent. But I think this general considerations will raise the universal issues of placing trees on city, village, or suburban streets.

See also:

Why Trees Shed Their Leaves in the Fall 

Why Do Leaves Change Color

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Earth Day: After Thoughts

White Columbine blossom
White Columbine blossom
White Columbine blossom, cultivar of the Wild Columbine.

For many indigenous peoples, their cultures and economies depend on a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

For westerners and other capitalists their economies depend on land as raw material to sell and transform into “value-added” products. A working ecosystem is irrelevant.

Westerners and other capitalists see themselves so far removed from the natural world, that healthy habitats, full water tables and biodiversity are not a priority or even a consideration in decision-making.

White Columbine
White Columbine, cultivar of the Wild Columbine.

After all, these are folks who are seriously planning and looking-forward to space colonies. The thinking goes – as long as they can farm their food (fruit, vegetables, and animals, etc.) they don’t need the natural world to produce for them. They can sustain themselves, thank you very much.

So, let the ecosystems become destroyed and non-functioning, the capitalists will be just fine.

But, what about the rest of us? I have no intention of leaving Earth. Earth is my mother and my home. I am not separated from the natural world. I am one of the many organisms that make up the functioning ecosystems. I need to live in a way that ensures and the renewable and life-sustaining systems continue.

trees at TreePhilly
Tree giveaway by

So, Sunday, Earth Day I spent three hours in the pouring raining giving garden advice to people picking up free trees given away by Tree Philly. The library garden club I volunteer with had a table setup and was dispensing gardening advice and giving away free information.

Big, big kudos to Tree Philly for only dispensing Philadelphia native trees. They gave away six trees. The large trees were River Birch, White Oak and Sugar Maple. The small trees were Redbud, Serviceberry (Shadbush) and Flowering Dogwood. I am sure many of the folks who picked up trees didn’t realize the trees were native species or why native species are so important. In this case, it doesn’t matter if they know, the native tress will be planted.

Violet Iris blossom
Violet Iris blossom

Because Earth is my home, I volunteer, blog, promote native plants, do habitat restoration, and try my best to live a life that sustains the sacred life of Earth. I do this out of gratitude to the natural world. My existence here on Earth is fragile, and I don’t take it for granted. I also do this for those of us who stay behind when the capitalists take off in gigantic spaceships or tumble through a wormhole.

Iris bud of native Northern Blue Flag
Iris bud of native Northern Blue Flag cultivar

There is no reason I or anyone else should have to live in a degraded environment. The necessities of life are Creator given rights, because without them, we die. I eat and drink because I have to, to live.

If the capitalists want to free themselves from any ties to the Earth, I say good luck with that. But, they don’t get to destroy my home while doing it.

So, if someone wants to call me a rabid environmentalist, I say thank you. Tree-hugger? Damn straight. Environmental Wacko? Okay, you’ve got my number. But, I am fighting for my life and the sacred life that is Earth.


Iris bud of native Northern Blue Flag
Iris cultivar of native Northern Blue Flag


More Posts On How the Earth Works

How Autumn Works?

Why Native Plants?

Spiraling Ostrich Ferns and the Road of Life

Disconnection from the Earth: The Biggest Con

We Are Made for Darkness

Stephen Hawking, Aliens and Gratitude

Nature Almanac Archive

Basic Information on Philadelphia Nature


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A Magnificent Magnolia

native magnolia flower
native magnolia flower Photo by Donna L. Long.

Sweetbay Magnolia has began to bloom early this spring. In the dark shade of a woods, the tall shrub glows with the soft white creaminess of large blossoms that seemly float in mid-air.

I went to Temple University’s Ambler campus arboretum especially to see who was blooming. The Magnolia virginiana L., along the walkway, was just beginning to flower. And and it’s sweet, fruity scent filled the late afternoon air. It is commonly called, ‘Sweetbay’.

I had to put my nose  deep in a blossom and breathed in. After a winter of bare trees and chilly temperatures, this heady first scent of spring was intoxicating.

Sweetbay is the most heavily scented of the magnolias. The fragrant flowers attract beetles and perhaps moths. The flowers scent is strongest in the afternoon, all the better to attract dusk-flying moths.

The bowl-shaped flowers are classic “beetle flowers”,with their large solitary flowers which are dull white to green, strongly fragrant and open during the day.

The flowers open a few at a time over a span of a month or more. So, we get to enjoy its ephemeral beauty from late spring into June.

Sweetbay is easily my favorite magnolia. Most often you hear of southern magnolias, but magnolias grow naturally around the Philadelphia area.

This multi-stemmed slender shrub is native to Philadelphia. New York and Connecticut are the northernmost part of the range. Depending on the climate, this magnolia can be evergreen, partial evergreen or deciduous.

Sweetbay is a rare and threatened plant here in southeastern Pennsylvania. It is a treat to find it growing in the sandy wetlands of the Atlantic Coastal Plain and drier upland forests of the Piedmont.

The Sweetbay Magnolia grows beneath the canopy of the oaks, hickories and Tulip tree of the local forests.

Except for the Cucumber Tree (Magnolia acuminata) all the native magnolias are understory trees. This makes magnolia a small tree good for planting in gardens.

Sweetbay has perfect flowers, meaning the blossom contains both male and female parts. The flowers bloom before the leaves open. After the flowers are fertilized, the seeds develop and are dispersed by mammals, birds, heavy rains and/or gusty winds.

I watched the showy Saucer Magnolia bloom early and end early. It’s blooms were finished as the Sweetbay began. Saucer Magnolia is not a North American native but an import from Asia. It blooms before many North American magnolias. Saucer Magnolia blooms so early, the flowers can be killed by frosts.

I have taken some gorgeous close-up shots of  it’s blossoms. The large pink and white blooms of Saucer Magnolia look somewhat artificial, like cheap plastic flowers you would find in a dollar store.

I look forward to the blooming of the magnolias. The elegance of Sweetbay is reminiscent of a well-dressed lady. Tasteful and refined but with a beauty the draws you to stop and rudely stare at someone so lovely.

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Why Do Leaves Change Color? with a Video

Closeup pf Autumn Leaf

maple leaf
deep orange leaf

Post revised 20 September 2019

The leaves are really beginning to change here in Philadelphia.

The leaves of most trees are green during the growing seasons of spring and summer. During this season, they change from light to dark green. The green color comes from a substance called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll absorbs light energy for use in photosynthesis, a food-making process that occurs in green plants.

The shorter days and cooler nights of fall signal the end of the growing season. Shorter days mean less sunlight is available and trees shut down their food-making processes. The chlorophyll breaks down and the green pigment is no longer seen. But before they die, the pigments that were hidden by the abundance of green, show themselves.


The sequence of color

Fall leaf color changes begin at the higher altitudes and progress to lower altitudes. This is due to the cooler temperatures of higher latitudes and elevations. Trees begin to change along the Canadian border (above this boundary is conifer or evergreen forests) and progress downward. Leaves change color first in the mountains and move down the mountains into the valleys and coastal areas.
The color changes in a predictable order. It begins with the red maples and progresses to aspens to sugar maples to oaks.

The Best Fall Color Conditions

Leaf color varies depending on temperature and other factors. Lack of enough water from droughts and insect-eating can case poor foliage display. Warmer than normal October nights are also bad for fall color display. During the warm nights, the trees use the sugar produced in their leaves, so not enough sugar is left for a color to develop.

Early Cool Weather Brings Early Fall Colors

The best color displays are developed during sunny fall days and cold, frost-free nights.
If you would like to know when fall foliage colors are at their peak, most Northern and Mid-Atlantic states have hotlines and tourism websites for information.

Brilliant Eye-Popping Colors

The uniform greens give way to the golds, oranges, reds, purples, and bronzes. These pigments are caused by the following substances.

  • yellow color by the pigment xanthophyll
  • orange-red tones by the carotene pigments.
  • red and purple by pigments called anthocyanins

The autumn color depends on which of the pigments is most plentiful. As the chlorophyll and other colorful pigments break down, all leaves become brownish.

Fire against the sky. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Fire against the sky. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Each Species of a Plant has its Characteristic Fall Colors

Red and yellow are the main colors of autumn foliage in the east, and yellow and dark green are the main colors of autumn in the mountains and hills of the West. The dark green colors are from the numerous evergreen (conifer) trees.

In the north, there are more deciduous trees and therefore more trees which change color. In the south are more evergreen species.

In the west, on mountains and hillsides, the bright yellow quaking aspens are vivid against a forest of dark green evergreens, such as spruce and fir trees.

In the east, the predominant colors are the browns of oaks, golds, and yellows of the hickories, sycamores and other species. The reds of red maples and sumacs typify the October displays and draw many foliage watching visitors each year.

Falling Leaves

After it dies the tiny pipelines that carried water and food between the leaf and the rest of the tree become plugged. The cells which held it to the stem dissolve and separate. The dying leaf hangs by a few strands. These strands dry and twist in the wind. When the strands finally break, it falls to the ground.
Once on the ground, then it is broken down by tiny organisms in the soil. These tiny organisms (bacteria and fungi) convert the leaf into simple substances used for food. These substances are also absorbed by plant roots and provide food for new growth.
The endless circle of life continues.
Glowing gold leaves in the Wissahickon Valley Park. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Glowing gold leaves in the Wissahickon Valley Park. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Regions of the World with Colorful Fall Foliage

Only three regions of the world have the deciduous tree cover that supports the spectacular fall foliage color:

  • Eastern North America
  • The British Isles and parts of northwestern Europe
  • Northeastern China and northern Japan


Specific Regions with Fall Foliage

1. most of southern mainland Canada

2. most of eastern part of United States (New England and small areas of the forest further west)

3. Adirondack, Appalachian, Smoky, and the Rocky Mountains

4. Scandinavian, Northern, and Western Europe north of the Alps

5. the Caucasus region near the Black Sea and Eastern Asia, including much of northern and eastern China, as well as Korea and Japan


Specific Places in the World with Autumn Foliage

North America

  • New England, USA
  • Maine, USA
  • Green Mountains, Vermont, USA
  • Nova Scotia and Quebec, Canada
  • Cascade Mountains, Pacific Northwest, USA
  • Catskills, Adirondacks, New York State, USA
  • Pennsylvania Poconos
  • Ohio
  • Great Smoky Mountains, USA
  • New Mexico (cottonwood, poplar, aspen trees)
  • Rocky Mountains, Colorado, USA
  • Lost Maples State Park, Texas, USA


  • Bavaria, Germany
  • Burgundy, Provence, France
  • Slovenia, Julian Alps, Eurasia
  • The Dolomites, Italy


This Video Explains How Leaves Change Colors in the Fall

Fall Foliage Reports

“Pennsylvania has a longer and more varied fall foliage season than any other state in the nation — or anywhere in the world.” (

Other regions of the world have more conifer or evergreens trees that don’t have the leaf color changing of deciduous trees.

These websites have foliage changing information.

The U.S. Nationwide Foliage Forecast – Old Farmer’s Almanac 

Canadian Fall Foliage Report

Fall in PA (Pennsylvania Foliage Watch) gives information about each region and provides a weekly foliage report.

Minnesota Fall Drives

Autumn in the Natural World

Autumn in the Natural World makes complex processes easy to understand, to the wonders of the autumn season. In easy to understand language the essential natural processes of the changing colors of leaves, why trees shed leaves, and how a pond can still freeze and still support life are explained. Learn the key star constellation which signals the end of summer and the growing season. Learn why the moon’s of autumn loom so large in the night sky.

Available in pdf and paperback starting at $5.99

Buy Direct from the author



More Related Posts

Why Trees Shed Leaves in the Fall

Leaf Colors of Common Trees in the Oak-Hickory Forest 

Nature in Autumn

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Attracting Birds with a Shadbush

A Shadbush tree in my garden.
Cedar Waxwings eating a shadbush berry.
Cedar Waxwings eating a shadbush berry.

All the shadbush’s luscious red fruit are gone.

The small sweet and juicy berries that look like red-blueberries are all eaten. I had one, just one, berry. The birds seem to have eaten the rest.

Shadbush and Attracting Birds

This is the first spring that the Shadbush has fruited in any decent quantity.

I planted this single Shadbush (also called Serviceberry or Juneberry) tree three springs ago. I planted it with the goal of attracting fruit-eating birds that rarely come to my seed-filled feeders.

I want to attract Gray Catbirds, Northern Mockingbirds and Robins which eat insects, worms and fruit.

I had noticed a Gray Catbird in my garden over the past few weeks. The bird didn’t take seeds or sip water, but it did peck at my strawberries that are ripening now. I bet it ate the Serviceberries, too.

Update: In 2021 the Shadbush attracted a flock of Cedar Waxwings to my Garden, my favorite bird!

The five-petal blossom of the Shadbush tree in my garden.
The five-petal blossom of the Shadbush tree in my garden.

Lovely Spring Blooms

Shadbush/Serviceberry/Juneberry is one of the first woody plants to flower. When it blooms, the small white flowers seem to cover the tree in snowflakes. This native fruit tree occurs naturally throughout southeastern PA.

Why the Name Shadbush or Serviceberry?

Canada Serviceberry or Shadbush (Amelanchier canadensis) in my garden. The small tree blooms just as the Shad are swimming upstream in the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers here in southeastern Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia, the Shad run up the Delaware and the fish are considered a delicacy by some. It also signals the time to plant corn.

A berry named after a fish doesn’t inspire me to eat. So when it blooms in early spring, I call it Shadbush.

Apparently, it was named Serviceberry because it bloomed in early spring when the weather allowed Christian ministers conduct funeral services to bury believers who had died during the harsh winter.

Juneberry because it ripens in June.

A Shadbush tree in my garden.
A Shadbush tree in my garden.

Shadbush Facts

Amelanchier canadensis – Rose Family

Common name:  Serviceberry or Shadberry or Juneberry

Deciduous tree that turns red or yellow in autumn

Blooms in April – May, Fruit in June – early July

Moist soil, in moist woods and swamps, hybridises easily and makes it hard to identify

Insects: Insect pollinated

Host plant: to Tiger Swallowtail, Viceroy, Red-spotted Purple, White Admiral and Striped Hairstreak butterflies

Attracts: Prime fruit for many animals from birds to black bears

Medicinal uses – The Cherokee use bark infusion as a bath and given to children with worms

Food uses – mashed fruit made into cakes or dried for future use

Phenology – reliable indicator of when to plant corn

More on Attracting Birds with Fruit

The Relationship Between Birds, Berries, and Fruit

The Shadbush and Dark-eyed Juncos

Attracting Birds with Fruit Trees and Berry Plants

Attracting Cedar Waxwings to Your Backyard

What’s a Naturalist Garden?

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Stormy Night and Bare Trees

Yesterday, trees were brilliant with color. The day was overcast, with diffused light. The naturally soft light made the colors pop all the more.

clouds in autumn sky
clouds in autumn sky

But, last night we had wind and rain that blew the leaves from the trees and shrubs. The brilliant colors from yesterday are just about gone. Philadelphia receives the majority of our rain in spring and fall.  This makes it a good time to plant trees and shrubs.

The habitat restoration group I volunteer with, plants native trees and shrubs at this time of year. The volunteers spent the summer pulling up invasive alien plants. When the plants are in leaf it is easy identify and pull the invaders out.

bare autumn trees

I didn’t notice the twisted shapes of these trees in summer. The leaves hid the bowed trunks. It reminds me of humans who wear plants to hide bowed legs.

twisted bare trees
dried hydrangea blossom
dried hydrangea blossom

These blossoms are naturally dried flowers. I like the papery, translucent  leaves. The veins make patterns and interlocking lines, that are backlit by the late afternoon sun.

Autumn is truly beautiful. The world is truly beautiful.

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Leaf Colors of Common Trees Here in the Oak-Hickory Forest

Maple tree in brilliant fall color. Photo by Donna L. Long.
reddish oak leaves. Photo by Donna L. Long
Reddish oak leaves. Photo by Donna L. Long

The Philadelphia area is graced with a show of spectacular fall tree color. We are just far enough north for the tree leaves to change and just far enough south to miss frigid winter temperatures. Perfect.

Tree leaves change colors in autumn according to their species DNA. Here is a list of the fall colors of common tree species here in the Oak-Hickory region of the Eastern Deciduous Forest.

Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). Photo by Donna L. Long
Northern Red Oak (Quercus rubra). Photo by Donna L. Long

Oak Tree Fall Leaf Colors 

bear oak – yellowish-brown
black oak – dull brown
blackjack oak, pin oak, turkey oak – reddish with an orange tinge
post oak – brown-red oak – dull brown
scarlet oak – bright scarlet to deep red
Virginia live oak – green this is an evergreen oak)


Hickory tree leaves in autumn
Hickory tree leaves in autumn – Nhlord [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Hickories Tree Fall Leaf Color

All hickories have yellow leaves in fall.


Red MapleTree (Acer rubrum) leaf. Photo by Donna L. Long.
Red MapleTree (Acer rubrum) leaf. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Maple Tree Fall Leaf Colors


box-elder – yellow, sometimes reddish
red maple – red
silver maple – pale yellow
striped male – yellow
sugar maple – bright orange, turning to yellow
Yellow Birch tree leaves (Betula neoalaskana) in autumn.
Yellow Birch tree leaves (Betula neoalaskana) in autumn. KANUTI NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE – public domain

Birch Tree Fall Leaf Color 


Birches – all turn shades of yellow
Fall Trees trunks and Golden Leaves
Fall Trees trunks and Golden Leaves. Photo by Donna L. Long.

Other Tree Species Fall Leaf Colors

American beech – light yellow and turning brownish tan
American chestnut – brownish-yellow
Black tupelo – deep dark red
Bigtooth aspen – orange-yellow, turning pale yellow
Eastern cottonwood – yellow
Eastern sycamore – brown
Flowering Dogwood – deep red
Pin and wild cherries – reddish, turning yellow
Quaking Aspen – yellow varies from pale to deep
Sassafras – reddish becoming yellowish
Sumacs – orange, turning bright red
Sweetgum – orange-red, turning yellow
Tamarack (American Larch) – bright yellow needles
Tuliptree – bright yellow
White ash – maroon, dark reddish-green

Autumn in the Natural World

Autumn in the Natural World makes complex processes easy to understand, to the wonders of the autumn season. In easy to understand language the essential natural processes of the changing colors of leaves, why trees shed leaves, and how a pond can still freeze and still support life are explained. Learn the key star constellation which signals the end of summer and the growing season. Learn why the moon’s of autumn loom so large in the night sky.

Available in pdf and paperback starting at $5.99

Buy Direct from the author



More about Autumn Leaves

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Redbud (Cercis canadenesis)

Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) flowers. 

Eastern redbud is a native, perennial, deciduous tree or shrub.  The plants may vary in form from dense and round (to 6 m tall) when grown in sun, to an open, taller form (to 12 m tall) when grown in the shade.

The trees produce hundreds of small pink pea flowers in the very early spring, even before other trees have leafed out.  The bright magenta-pink to lilac flowers, appear in small clusters, primarily on older stems.  The unique, broadly heart-shaped leaves are nearly circular.  New leaves are a light green that darken with age and finally turn yellow in the fall.  The seeds are contained in a flat, thin pod, which turns from green to brown.

Common name: Redbud

Scientific name: Cercis canadenesis

Family name: Legume Family (Fabaceae)

Attracts: Many birds, including bobwhite quails, eat the seeds.  White-tailed deer are among the animals that browse the foliage.  Honeybees visit the blossoms.  Livestock will browse on Eastern redbud.

Host plant to: Henry’s Elfin butterfly (Callophrys[=Deciduphagus] henrici

Native range: native to the eastern and south-central United States, southward to Texas

Habitat: Eastern redbud occurs in the forest understory in moist rich woods, along the banks of streams, in ravines, on bluffs, in open rocky woods, and abandoned farmlands.

Height: to about 25 feet

Light needed: sun to shade

Hardiness zones: 4 to 9

Bloom period: spring

Bloom color: deep pink or red; yellow leaves in the autumn

Growing Tips:
The plants require very little maintenance. Eastern redbud has relatively few pests.  Stem canker, leaf spots, and verticillium wilt may be a problem.  The plants may experience some insect damage from leaf rollers, treehoppers, scales, leafhoppers, aphids, and spider mites, but damage is rarely severe.

Cuttings are difficult to root.  Mature plants do not transplant well so buy young plants that are balled-and-burlapped or container grown.  Transplant the plants in the spring or fall, in well-drained soils in sun to part shade.  Water the plants regularly until established.

Ethnobotanic: The Alabama, Cherokee, Delaware, Kiowa, and Oklahoma were among the Native American tribes that used eastern redbud for various purposes.  The bark was made into a tea to treat whooping cough.  Taking cold infusions of the roots and inner bark treated fevers and congestion.  An infusion of the bark was used to treat vomiting and fever.  During winters, the plants were used for firewood.  Because it is one of the first plants to flower in the spring, the blossoming branches were brought into the homes to “drive winter out.”  Children were “fond of eating the blossoms” of eastern redbud.

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It's 100 degrees outside. We need trees.

Morris Park, Fairmount Park

It’s 100 degrees fahrenheit here in Philadelphia. And the lack of trees along some city streets is a big minus. I walked down to the mailbox this morning and the lack of shade made the walk unpleasant.

Philadelphia has done a great job replanting trees in the city. But, there are still city residents who refuse to plant a tree in front of their houses because they don’t want the leaves. This bothers me to no end.

One way it bothers me as it is just another example of how people don’t respect the land. Philadelphia is in a natural forest. The natural habitats of this land include forest, meadows, swamps, wetlands, rivers and streams. Not concrete and asphalt.

I just don’t understand it. Leaves? Is that the real reason someone doesn’t want a tree? Leaves only fall for a  few weeks in the Fall. Maybe someone has to rake up the leaves three or four times. Is that so bad? And leaves decay by spring anyway.

It is this kind of thinking which makes me despair that we humans can save ourselves. We aren’t saving the Earth, we’re saving us, humans. Maybe.

Some of us aren’t very adaptable. No, changing. Changing is for sissies.

But, Earth bats last. And Earth, she always wins.

So, I guess I am just not very optimistic about humanity today.

Okay, maybe some of humanity. The rest of us will do what we gotta do. Peace.