Fall In Love With Unique Trees Displaying Fall Color
Botanical Beauties Are Bountiful
LISLE, IL (October 26, 2007) – Zelkova is not your long lost aunt, and pawpaw is not a town in Michigan. These are two of the less-frequently-seen trees with unusual characteristics that dot the stunning landscapes at The Morton Arboretum, where fall color has arrived in a big way, and trees are now trying to outdo each other with their showy, leafy fashions.
“Some trees were about two weeks late in turning, but they were worth waiting for,” says Ed Hedborn, Arboretum botanist and “Color Scout.” Hedborn notes that, with trees from more than 40 countries around the world, something is always turning fall color at the Arboretum. Guests should make repeat visits to enjoy the entire show.
Sugar maples – sporting yellows, oranges and reds – typically are the big attention-getters, but also turning now are lindens, ironwoods, black cherries, hickories and more. Here now are some of the lesser-known tree species that visitors can enjoy at the Arboretum – and learn about.
Pawpaw: These trees, some of which have turned yellow for fall, may seem really out of place. They’re the northernmost member of a tropical family. Their fruits will look like greenish-blue potatoes. When ripe, the fruits can taste like banana custard, although we do not recommend anyone eat these, as some people can have an allergic reaction.
Corktree: Not a tree people would see frequently in parks or forest preserves. Nice, thick bark, hence the name “cork” tree, and the leaves are producing yellow fall color.
Sumacs: Varieties in small and large shrubs, and small trees. These were among the first to turn fall color, with many still displaying brilliant reds.
Hickories: Now sporting a beautiful yellow color. These trees are not so common anymore. Early settlers recognized the hickory wood strength, and used these trees to make tool handles, smoke meat, and more.
Beech: Chewing gum, anyone? This is the tree that brings us beech nuts. It’s a main food source for turkeys, and used to feed the now-extinct passenger pigeons. Leaves are turning yellow and brown, and look gold from a distance.
Japanese Zelkova: Related to elms, but these do not get Dutch elm disease. They have interesting sawtooth-shaped leaves that turn purple in the fall. These trees are about to change color.
Oaks: Can get many colors from them. Bur oak leaves turn yellow in fall, pin oaks become scarlet red, red oaks turn red, and the Asiatic oaks will become a coppery-brown. Oaks are starting to turn.
Dawn-redwood: A “living fossil,” this tree wasn’t even know to be a living plant until 1948, when a researcher discovered it in the tree’s native range in China. Dawn-redwood’s fossil record may go back as long as 120 million years. These are about to display a reddish-bronze fall color.
Ginkgo: A botanical oddity for sure. Another “living fossil,” ginkgos are believed to have been in the landscape 200 million years ago. Ginkgos are noted for their fan-shaped leaves and are already developing beautiful yellow fall color.
Asian maples: Plenty of varieties not often seen in parks or forest preserves – these are from Russia, China and elsewhere in Asia. The paperbark maple draws its name from the unique and beautiful bark, featuring a paper-like look with a cinnamon-red color, and leaves turn red in fall.
Bald-cypress: Not a fish, of course, but it is often found growing in swampy areas. You almost cannot drown a bald cypress. Unlike other trees that must have drained soil to survive, this tree “breathes” through “knees,” which can get up to four to six feet high. Also, unlike most “conifers,” this tree is deciduous. Like trees that lose their leaves seasonally, the bald-cypress does not stay green all year long. Fall color starting now is a rich, coppery, reddish-brown.
Freeman Maple: A cross between a silver maple and a red maple. This tree gets its adaptability to “bad,” compacted soil from the silver maple, and the lovely form and reddish fall color from the red maple. In the fall, each leaf shows green, yellow, red and purple hues, but the overall look is purple.
Native grasses: In the Schulenberg Prairie, lovely Indian grass, big blue stem and little blue stem are among the showy grasses on display, sometimes six to eight feet tall. Silvery “hairs” on seeds at the grass tips often produce “sparkling highlights” when the sun hits them in just the right way.
The Morton Arboretum is an internationally recognized 1,700-acre outdoor museum with collections of 4,057 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. or sunset, whichever is earlier, Central Time. 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.