Crow’s Nest: What about fall color?

October 9, 2012

We had spectacular weather in September and the preserve has looked beautiful. But there hasn’t been much fall color, and some of the early color has been been disappointing. Here’s a rundown:

Ash trees (Fraxinus spp.) usually turn a clear yellow very early and then drop their leaves. This year, they were barely yellow and are now mostly gone. Sweet gum (Nyssa sylvatica) is usually spectacular fluorescent pinks, reds, and oranges, this year was merely good. Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera) usually has good yellow fall color; this year about half of each leaf turned brown and shriveled while still on the tree. Similarly, hickory leaves (Carya spp.) are half yellow, half brown. I wonder if the dry spell this spring stressed these leaves.

On the other hand, poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) has been displaying spectacular fall color, grading from yellow to orange to red on the same vine. We have had to ask the kids at our camp programs not to pick up the most beautiful fallen leaves this week, since many of them are poison ivy. Later in the fall we’ll be able to lift this caution. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) has also turned a rich, dark red.


Dogwoods (Cornus florida) have looked very nice with a rich burgundy, and sassafras looks great right now with a bright, clear orange. Red maples have not shown much color yet and they are usually spectacular.

Most other things have also not turned yet, so there is time for this to develop into a better year for fall color. When will we reach the peak of color? I don’t know, perhaps sometime in the next week or two.

Despite the disappointing show by a few species the preserve is still beautiful, and worth a visit; in particular the asters look great right now.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on October 9, 2012.