Spring is known for the colourful pastels of newly flowering trees and plants, but autumn paints the world in a splash of warm colours from an artist’s palette. The world’s deciduous trees put on a brilliant show, one for which leaf-peepers make pilgrimages hundreds of miles to see.
This year’s brutal summer temperatures in large areas of the country have many of us anxious for the arrival of cool breezes that signal a welcome change in the air. It won’t be long now before we see the first hints of colour on our favourite fall trees in our yards, neighbourhoods and forests all around.
What Makes a Tree Colorful in Autumn?
As the days grow shorter and the temperatures get colder, deciduous trees — primarily broadleaf varieties with just a few conifers — begin to lose the ability to produce food in their leaves. Chlorophyll is the chemical that allows plants to absorb the sun’s energy, and it is also the substance that gives leaves their green colouring throughout the warmer months.
As autumn rolls in, chlorophyll begins to break down, causing the leaves to lose their green colouring and revealing the pigmentations previously hiding beneath. The various colours you see in a variety of leaves depend upon what other types of chemicals are present in the plant and which ones dominate.
Which Trees Produce the Most Vibrant Colors?
From the ornamental trees in your yard to the native species all around, you are treated to an amazing array of deep red, orange, yellow and burgundy colours. The best trees for autumn brilliance are those that produce the deepest, brightest or most diverse leaf colourings. Here are eight of our favourites:
1. Sugar maple: The sugar maple’s gray-black trunk and branches provide a stark contrast to the brilliant burnt-orange to yellow leaves.
2. Japanese maple: This stunning tree has red leaves throughout the summer, making it unique for a deciduous species. When fall rolls around, the red turns an even deeper, richer shade.
3. Kousa dogwood: These trees provide a double dose of goodness. Just after you’ve finished feasting on the delicious red berries of summer, you get to feast your eyes on its bright red leaves in autumn.
4. Quaking aspen: The leaves of this species quake so that both sides absorb the sun’s energy. In the autumn, the yellow to orange colouring shimmers hypnotically in gentle breezes or flashes vibrantly in stiff winds.
5. Red oak: These common woodland trees produce uncommonly beautiful colors with leaves that can be bright orange, crimson red or russet.
6. Washington hawthorn: Between the bright red berries and the purple, scarlet and orange leaves, this tree is awash in pleasing shades that lift your mood.
7. Japanese persimmon: This is a special species that displays red and orange leaves as the weather turns cooler. No need to feel sad when the leaves all drop; the tasty fruit left behind will surely bring a smile to your face.
8. Larch: This tree is an honorary conifer to add to this list of broadleaves. The needles on the larch turn a spectacular shade of yellow-orange before they shed onto the forest floor.
There are a number of factors that determine how colourful any given tree is during the autumn months. Drought and high heat can cause damage that results in dull foliage showing. If you have any of these trees in your yard, providing them the proper care — including tree trimming and sufficient watering — gives them the best chance for years of good health. In return, you get a front-row seat to some of the best autumn shows around.
Martin’s Tree Service is here to help you care for your trees. Our expert attention ensures your deciduous trees remain healthy, leaving you to sit back and enjoy the fall foliage.