Fall Color Report: November 3-9, 2017

A bridge framed by colorful trees in autumn
Late color continues in our collections.
November 3, 2017

While the recent wind and rain have blown some leaves from the trees, there is still plenty of color at The Morton Arboretum! In the East Woods, shrubs and plants along the ground are yellow. The Oak Collection is beginning to take on a range of fall colors including yellows, warm browns, reds, and some shades of purple. Late fall color continues elsewhere in our collections and gardens and in the Schulenberg Prairie.

Plants that still show fall color this week include bald-cypresses; gray dogwoods; elms; ginkgos; bitternut hickories; ironwoods, tree lilacs; honey locusts; katsuras; and magnolias. Different species of Asian, Freeman, and sugar maples are colorful, as are pecans; pawpaws; oaks; redbuds; dawn-redwoods; black walnuts; and Japanese zelkova. Witch-hazels in Witch Hazel Dell north of Lake Marmo have some delicate fall flowers. Crabapples and white-fruited mountain-ash are showing their fruits near Crabapple Lake and in the Flowering Trees Collection on the West Side.

The best areas to view fall color this week are the Maple Collection (Parking Lots 7, 8, and 14); the Sumac Collection (Parking Lot 18); the Appalachian Collection (Parking Lot 16); the China Collection (Parking Lot 17); the East Woods (Parking Lots 8 through 13 and 15); around Lake Marmo (Parking Lots 27 and 28); and in the Schulenberg Prairie (Parking Lot 25).

When is the best time to see fall color? It depends in part on the weather. The colors we see in leaves are based on the pigments contained in the leaves (mainly chlorophylls, carotenes, and anthocyanins), which reflected different colors of light back to our eyes. The intensity and color of the light also changes the way we see colors. When you see our fall color display on a day with bright sun overhead, the colors will seem more vivid and intense: They pop!  

Viewing the same plants in the early morning or late afternoon on a sunny day will bring out more reds and oranges, because of the angle of the light through the atmosphere. On a cloudy day, when light is filtered by water droplets in the atmosphere, colors will appear more muted. On some days, colors will be brash and loud, shouting for attention. On other days, they will be quieter.