Enrich Your Fall Color Experience At The Morton Arboretum
Fall Color “Costumes” The Landscape; Trees Yield Memorable Stories That Parents, Educators, Can Share
LISLE, IL (October 4, 2006) – Like any great costume ball, the colors are vivid, and the party-goers are dressed to the nines. The “ball” at The Morton Arboretum is the annual show of gorgeous autumn colors, which is now underway. Behind the glowing reds, oranges, yellows, purples and apricot colors, each “character” has a memorable story to tell. Arboretum visitors can check out the “top ten” fall color trees that have fun, interesting stories: tall trees with not-so-tall tales.
Dawn-redwoods go back at least 60-million years – Tyrannosaurus rex might have “lumbered” under them. The tree, called a “living fossil,” was thought to be extinct in modern times because the only known evidence of this tree was fossils. But in the 1940s, a botanist found this species growing in China, and brought back seeds. Beautiful dawn-redwoods produce lovely reddish-brown color in fall.
Wood from our next tree is famous among more mature golfers – and is perhaps a more famous wood than Tiger Woods. Those who played before the days of titanium drivers appreciated the richness and beauty of persimmon wood golf clubs, which are now rather collectable. Persimmon was also a notable food source for Native Americans, who created what might be the original “Power Bar.” Persimmon fruit can be dried and made into a “jerky” type of snack, but such a product would be palatable only if made from fruit harvested after the frost. Fall colors are highly variable: yellow-green to reddish-purple.
White ashes might demonstrate that we don’t fool Mother Nature, and in fact, she’s way ahead of us. It’s well known that manufacturers use white ash, with its tough, pliant wood, to make baseball bats. But perhaps Mother Nature knew of this application all along and tried to tell us about it. If you check out white ash bark, you’ll see an interlacing pattern of diamonds – as in baseball diamonds? White ash leaves turn a rich dark purple or maroon with yellow and pink in early fall.
If our next tree was a contestant on the “Survivor” TV show, it would win hands down. The ginkgo is the only surviving member of the plant order Ginkogoales, which dominated the world’s tree flora 150-200 million years ago. You’ll recognize this beauty by its fan-shaped leaves that turn yellow in the fall.
Sassafras trees either think that variety is the spice of life, or they can’t make up their minds about things. While most trees have uniformly-shaped leaves, sassafras leaves can come in three different shapes. Root beer flavoring was originally extracted from the roots. In the fall, these trees turn colors ranging from orange to yellow to salmon to vermilion.
Kentucky coffeetree grows seed pods about 4-5 inches long, with beans roughly the size of a large M&M. Native Americans once used the bean from this tree as a game-piece. Kentucky coffeetree leaves turn a pale yellow in fall with the large brown pods adding contrasting color and interest. Although each leaflet is a typical 1-3 inches long, its true leaf is about 3 feet long.
Shagbark hickory wood is known for toughness and durability, and is used to make tool handles, ladders, gun stocks, wagon wheels and more. The seventh U.S. President, Andrew Jackson, got the nickname “Old Hickory,” in recognition of his tough character. The shagbark hickory’s leaves turn golden brown in fall.
The sumacs bring lovely reds to the fall color costume ball, and would even provide the refreshments! Early pioneers used the sumac seeds to make a cooling drink tasting like lemonade.
For good grooming in the pioneer days, settlers relied on the sweet-gum tree for its fragrant resin, which was used to scent soaps and perfumes. Sweet-gum turns predominantly burgundy in fall. Just be sure you don’t sit down on this tree’s fruit – the experience will be anything but sweet: the fruit is like a miniature porcupine.
Finally, we have the story of German physician and naturalist Engelbert Kaempfer. While stationed in the Far East in the 17th century, Kaempfer visited the imperial court on the Japanese mainland twice. He pilfered specimens of golden-larch during his journeys. It’s a wonder they didn’t name this tree “clepto-larch.”
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of more than 3,700 kinds of trees, shrubs, and other plants from around the world. The Arboretum's beautiful natural landscapes, gardens, research and education programs, and year-round family activities support its mission – the planting and conservation of trees and other plants for a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world. Conveniently located at I-88 and Rte. 53 in Lisle, Illinois, the Arboretum is open 7 days a week, 365 days a year, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (CDT) and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CST). The Children's Garden is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (CDT) and 9:30 to 4 p.m. (CST). Visit www.mortonarb.org or call 630/968-0074 to learn more.
Media Contact: Gina Tedesco, 630-725-2103,