Fall Color Spectacular
Written by: Jake Kubsiak, Certified Arborist IL-1392A
The Fall Season is probably my favorite time of year. The blessing of the change in temperature and humidity, baseball playoffs, Packers season starting, and the changes in leaf color are all part of what makes fall special in Wisconsin. Working in trees is typically easier in fall as well with more consistent dry ground, less concerns about perennial plant damage and cooler temps for increased productivity.
Most of our healthy trees in Wisconsin have some variety of green leaf coloration during the growing season. During fall season a ton of chemical changes begin to occur as the amount of daylight vs darkness triggers hormonal changes in trees. As chlorophyll breaks down other colors begin to emerge. This leads to reds, yellows, and purple mixes that we all love and a final show from our forest and landscape trees before winter. Several species provide a better show than others. This article will highlight the possible planting options for your property with a focus on fall leaf color.
Sugar Maple – the state tree, a long lived, typically tough tree is known for the bright yellows and red mixes that can often appear as orange.
Oaks – Burnt orange to yellows and reds mixed together, Oaks provide good to great fall leaf colorations. One under used, but great species of Oak is Shingle Oak. A non-oak appearing leaf that is smooth, shiny and waxy, and small acorn size makes for a great landscape tree option.
Katsura Tree – An underused species. Katsura tree produce colors from rich yellow/oranges to sometimes almost Apricot color. The Boerner Botanical Garden has an absolute gem that is amazingly large for the species, but also produces a unique leaf color show every fall.
White Birch – Bright yellow leaves against the white stems is striking for this popular landscape tree.
Forest Rouge Black Haw Viburnum – A deep purple to red leaf coloration is almost flower like on this medium to large sized multi-stem shrub.
Oakleaf Hydrangea – A really nice adaptable plant that offers great flowers, but also typically turns bright red/burgundy color during fall season. Numerous varieties are available.
Seven-son Flower – The Morton Arboretum lists the following “Seasons of Interest” for Seven-son Flower; Early Winter, Mid-Winter, Late summer, Early Fall, Mid Fall, and Late Fall. That covers most of the year. Fall color is golden yellow leaves with red calyces.
Tamarack – Golden yellow to reddish brown. I grew up in central Wisconsin surrounded by cranberry farmers and marshy areas. In numerous locations Tamarck will dominate the swamp edge and floating bog areas. An unbelievable show of bright yellow would occur every fall season. What a treat!
Aspen – I have traveled west to pursue Elk in the mountains east of Salt Lake City. The mountains are dominated by quaking Aspen. The bright western sun on bright yellow leaves with white bark colors is an awesome natural show.
Fall color does not end with this list, but these are a few of my favorites. My actual favorite individual tree with GREAT fall color is my own Autumn Purple Ash tree. Bright yellow, purple to red colors that reflect in through our front stair case window is a great fall color show.
Adding seasonal interest to your landscape can be enhanced with proper selection of trees and shrubs that provide fall leaf color. Contact your Wachtel Tree Science Arborist to help guide the species choices and offer installation of a new fall color tree or shrub for your property.