October 2014: Fall color

Pond reflections of fall color
From the archives of the Sterling Morton Library

October 2014 library profile:

Fall color



October is here, once again,

barely transcending the threshold of autumn.

The maple is turning yellow to orange, to red,

soon to be bared by winter.


When apart, even so brief,

this season stays with you,

whether I am or not

and your voice with me,

through wind's immutable breath."

from October's Opal, by Robert Savino




Autumn is an exciting season at The Morton Arboretum, with every weekend filled with fall activities. Special events like the Glass Pumpkin Patch will give visitors a chance to watch talented artists and glass-blowers interpret the season in the form of beautiful and colorful pumpkins and autumnal designs, while the trees that are here year-round change color in a beautiful celebration of the season and the passing of another year. The Sterling Morton Library can help you celebrate the season by providing information on trees in fall and helping you make the most of what author Ronald M. Lanner calls "leaf-peeping." Each type of tree turns different colors and behaves differently. Fall Color and Woodland Harvests by C. Ritchie Bell and Anne H. Lindsey and Autumn Leaves by Ronald M. Lanner are both great resources for identifying trees in fall by their changing colors and leaves. Lanner's work describes the behavior and attributes of common fall beauties in depth while relating them to the surrounding ecosystem. Both works provide background information on the reasons trees turn colors in preparation for leaf drop and winter, while Bell and Lindsey provide detailed photos of fall leaves and seed pods for tree identification along with maps showing common location for each tree. Bell and Lindsey also include a leaf identification key and information for 100 trees and nearly 50 fruits and seeds separate from their hosts or leaves. 




"As the days grow shorter toward the end of summer, the stage is set for the biological equivalent of the "Greatest Show on Earth," the annual change in color of the eastern deciduous forests from summer green to the brilliant hues of fall. Actually, the show really starts, as it has for thousands of years, on the longest day of the year and the time of the summer solstice, the first day of summer, June 21. That is the day when the tilt of the earth begins to change and the sun "starts back south," causing the annual changes in light and temperature that give us the four seasons. With the shorter days and less direct sunlight the weather becomes cooler, and this change in temperature increases the tempo of internal changes in the plants that will soon produce the brilliant leaf colors in the trees, shrubs, and vines of our deciduous trees... Throughout the biological world, color and color pattern are critical to the survival of both individual organisms and the species as a whole. In animals color and pattern often function as camouflage for both predator and prey, or as warning color, or as mimicry, or as part of the mating ritual. In plants flower color is important in attracting the pollinators necessary for seed production. Fruit color, and sometimes seed color, play a primary role in the distribution of the seeds of many plants by birds. However, the brilliant array of fall colors in our deciduous woodlands occurs in only a few other places on earth and does not seem to have any direct biological value or function. Rather it appears to be only a most beautiful and serendipitous byproduct of the autumn metabolism of the forest plants."

~ from Fall Color and Woodland Harvests by C. Ritchie Bell and Anne H. Lindsey, p. 3-4


Fall at The Morton Arboretum


Fall Color Report - "Each year, The Morton Arboretum’s trees are a prime stop for area leaf-peepers, as many of the Arboretum’s 4,200 varieties of trees turn a brilliant palette of vibrant reds, oranges and golds. Ed Hedborn is the Arboretum’s official Fall Color Scout and reports on the Arboretum’s color each week during the season."

Fall color festival - Weekends in October at the Arboretum are full of fall fun, with a few special events thrown in! 

Library resources


Fall Color and Woodland Harvests by C. Ritchie Bell and Anne H. Lindsey, 1990

Autumn Leaves: A Guide to the Fall Color of the Northwoods by Ronald M. Lanner, 1990

The Garden in Autumn by Allen Lacy, 1990

Autumn Across America by Edwin Way Teale, 1956


Children's books


Awesome Autumn by Bruce Goldstone, 2012

When Autumn Comes by Robert Maass, 1990

The Pumpkin Man from Piney Creek by Darleen Bailey Beard, 1995

Pumpkin Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington, 1986

Pumpkin: a story for a field by Mary Lyn Ray, 1992

Apples and Pumpkins by Anne Rockwell, 1994

Pumpkin Heads! by Wendell Minor, 2000


Reader's advisory


If you are interested in our resources on other seasons, check out our collections on plants in winterspring, and summer, or explore our collections on gardening for all seasons!