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What Colors Do Trees Change in the Fall?

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It is no secret that fall brings a beautiful array of colors. While each tree species will change color at its own pace, all season you can see a rainbow of deciduous leaves across the forest. Overall, the northeast United States boasts the most dramatic color changes.

People from all over will drive to upstate New York, New Hampshire, and Maine to see the leaves change and the bright colors they display. In fact, there are webpages dedicated to tracking the status of the leaves and which colors are peak every day. If you are interested in making a drive to the northeast, search for one of these trackers to time it just right.

Why do the leaves change color in the fall?

Evergreen trees keep their needles year-round. While most evergreens keep their green hue, some will turn to brown or lose their needles in autumn.

On the other hand, the deciduous trees are the ones you know to change color every year. As the leaves absorb sunlight, they produce chlorophyll, which gives the leaves a green tint. However, as the days become shorter, and the sunlight is both weaker and shorter in time. At this point, the chlorophyll can no longer dominate the color pigments in the leaves. The secondary hue reveals itself before falling for the winter.

What Trees Turn Red in Autumn?

What Trees Turn Red in Autumn

Many trees turn from dark green to a bold red. All in all, these ruby leaves stand out against the fall foliage because of this boldness. However, the red varies across the species. Some trees are a brighter scarlet, and others are a dark crimson. The most well-known tree to turn red in autumn is the maple tree. Although, all the red trees on the horizon are not maple trees. In fact, there are many species that turn to a dramatic red.

The red color is caused by anthocyanin. It is a pigment produced by sugars trapped in the leaves. For most plants, this pigment does not appear until after the growing season is over. Although, trees that are red throughout the growing season, such as Red Maples, have anthocyanin present year-round. Most species will change to a different color (other than green) before ending at red. On the other hand, there are only a handful of species that will stay red throughout the entire autumn season.

Trees that End in Red

  • Downy serviceberry
  • Blackgum
  • Persimmon
  • Sassafras
  • Raywood Ash
  • Eddies White Wonder Dogwood

Trees that Stay Red

  • Red Maple
  • Red Oak
  • Black Cherry
  • Sweetgum
  • Black Oak
  • Winged Sumac
  • Hornbeam

What Trees Turn Orange in Autumn?

What Trees Turn Orange in Autumn

Probably the favorite hue for fall colors is the dark orange against a clear blue sky. While the red of some species is bold and dramatic, the orange leaves provide a statement and a color rarely seen in nature. Because it opposes green and blue on the color wheel, it creates a significant contrast to the colors we so often associate with nature.

Orange hues are from carotenoid pigments. In fact, it is the same pigment that makes carrots orange.

Unlike the red hues, orange leaves stick around all autumn long.

Trees that Boast Orange Leaves

  • Sugar Maple
  • Smoke Tree
  • Hickory
  • Japanese Persimmon
  • Japanese Maple
  • Black Tupelo
  • Sumac
  • Most beeches
  • Most birches

What Trees Turn Yellow in Autumn?

What Trees Turn Yellow in Autumn

Yellow is the last primary color seen across the autumn landscape. While some yellows lean closer to orange, there are others that are bright yellow. All in all, the yellow hue is also a carotenoid, just like the orange hue.

Yellow hues are wonderful to experience because they vary widely from bright yellows to golden colors. Additionally, there is no difference between the yellow tint of a dehydrated tree and the yellow of a tree in the grasps of autumn.

Trees that Shine Yellow

  • Yellow Hickory
  • Yellow Poplar
  • White Oak
  • Sycamore
  • Chestnut
  • Gingko
  • Witch Hazel

What Trees Turn Purple in Autumn?

What Trees Turn Purple in Autumn

Some trees diverge from the traditional red hue and darken deeply to a regal purple. After all, purple foliage is demanding. These trees need sunny fall days after a summer with ample rain. Furthermore, the nights need to be cool, but not freezing.

The purple hue is from the same anthocyanin pigment. Altogether, the purple trees are harder to find and occur less frequently in nature. However, this makes these trees so special. In a sea of red, orange, and yellow, you will see the occasional contrasting dark purple standing out.

Trees that are Regally Purple

  • Ash
  • Pear
  • Raywood

Wrap Up

With this guide, you should have no problem narrowing down the list of trees in your yard, displaying beautiful leaves. If you are planning to plant your trees based on their fall color, use this guide along with other research to determine what species are best for your climate and soil types. Plan for size accordingly. Overall, the wonderful thing about plants for leaf color, you will not need to wait until the tree reaches maturity to get a sampling. Every fall, your juvenile tree will demonstrate the same spectacular hues as it will in adulthood.

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