Expect an intense fall color show
Published: Saturday, November 17, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 4:46 p.m.
Q: I am really enjoying the red maple tree in my yard. Its leaves are really changing color this fall. Are there other trees that have fall color?
A: North Central Florida isn't necessarily known for fall color like other parts of the country, but we do have many beautiful trees and plants that can give a colorful leaf change to our late November and December landscapes. How intense the colors are often depends on what our weather is like when the season changes in September. When we have a gradual cooldown with nights in the 50s and then 40s, the color change in the leaves is more vivid.
When we go from very warm weather to freezing temperatures within a couple of days, the leaves just turn brown. This year we have had cool weather that will result in a beautiful leaf color show.
Your red maple is a good choice for red-colored leaves. Our native dogwood leaves will also turn a beautiful crimson color. The winged sumac shrub, Rhus copalina (not poisonous), turns a beautiful burgundy-red before dropping its leaves in December.
For yellow leaves this fall, the green ash tree (Fraxinus pennsylvanica) can't be beat. The leaves change from a light green to a bright yellow for an intense fall show. The ash is a wonderful shade tree in the landscape as well.
Many people may not notice our native Pignut Hickory trees (Carya glabra) growing in the woods. This pecan relative grows in our area's natural lands. If you are lucky enough to have one in your landscape, you will see the beautiful golden orange-colored leaves that start to turn in late November.
My favorite tree for fall color is an under-planted native called the soap berry tree (Sapindus saponaria). This tree grows well in USDA zones 8 through 11. It has small 1- to 2-inch leaves that turn from green to yellow to red in the late fall. There is one in my neighborhood that will make you slow the car and gawk at the beautiful hues of red and yellow.
Another favorite to mention is the sourwood tree (Oxydendron arboretum). It is more known further north of Gainesville, but it will grow well for us. Sourwood grows about 20 to 30 feet tall, and its leaves will turn a striking scarlet shade of red in the late fall in North Central Florida. This tree may be difficult to locate, but is certainly worth the effort if you are planting for fall color.
A few others worth mentioning for fall color are bald cypress, black cherry and oak leaf hydrangeas. For more information on all of these trees and shrubs, visit the UF/IFAS Extension website at www.solutionsforyourlife.com. To find these trees, visit your area retail nurseries and nurseries that carry native shrubs and trees.
Q: All of my pine trees are dropping many needles now. Is this normal?
A: It probably is normal. We see a season autumn needle drop on many species of our native pines in North Central Florida. The natural yellowing of the needles in a uniform pattern is usually seen in November. This year seems to be a heavy drop, especially for the loblolly pines around the area. Be sure to rake the needles up and use them in your landscape beds. They make excellent free mulch.
Wendy Wilber is an extension agent with UF/IFAS. Email her at email@example.com.