Wisconsin provides us with some brutal winters, sometimes non-existent springs, and varying degree summers. The one season we know we can count on as Wisconsinites is fall. The fall season brings apple picking, game days, moderately chilled weather, pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, and of course, changing tree colors. These varying colors entice us to go outside and view the beauty we are surrounded by here in the Midwest. The real question is, what trees will provide us with these beautiful fall colors?
When we first hear the name, sugar maple, our mind goes directly to warm pancakes, drenched in maple syrup. However, the Sugar Maple’s fall hue is what really sets them apart with colors ranging from blazing red, to burnt orange, this tree is not subtle in the fall months.
Commonly confused with birch trees, Quaking Aspens have long white trunks without peeling bark. The Quaking Aspen is distinguishable because of their vibrant yellow fall color.
Known as the kaleidoscope tree, the Kousa Dogwood’s fall colors can range anywhere from red, purple, yellow, and orange. Adding this tree to your yard will provide you with nothing short of a surprise every fall when the leaves burst into varying colors all season.
Northern Red Oak
Every Wisconsinite loves fall, and loves to prolong the fall season. The Northern Red Oak is notorious for changing color in late autumn, forcing these dark red leaves to stay on the branch longer.
The Japanese Maple is a beautiful tree for any landscape regardless of the season. It is particularly showstopping in the fall with it’s delicate leaves varying with some multicolored leaves, bursting colors, and tropical dark pink hue.
Being a winter shedding tree, the Bald Cypress is not typically looked at as a fall planting option. The needles occupying this tree range from burnt orange to deep maroon and will remain colorful until the first winter shed.
Picking out your tree based on color change is one thing but understanding the science behind these changing colors is another. It is important to note that not all trees will change color, and only deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, while evergreen trees don’t lose their leaves.
Why do Trees Change Colors?
There are three pigments that change the colors of leaves: chlorophyll (green), carotenoid (yellow, orange, & brown), and anthocyanin (red). Chlorophyll allows leaves to use sunlight and produce food. Chlorophyll covers Carotenoids during summer forcing the leaves to remain green. Once sunlight is taken away, during fall, Carotenoids takeover and change the leaf pigment to yellow or orange. Carotenoids are the same natural substances that color corn, carrots, and bananas. Anthocyanin cannot be produced by every tree and is found in those trees whose leaves turn red. Anthocyanins are the same natural substance that color cranberries, red apples, and cherries.
Consider what type of tree you want to see in your yard this fall, and what pigmentation most intrigues you. While game-day, apple picking, and chilled weather are a few advantages to fall, so is planting the right color changing tree. Our certified arborists can assist you in choosing the right tree for your fall color viewing.