Fall Color Watch

We love fall! Here are some species of plants that are changing color this week.

Week of October 25th

WHITE OAK
Quercus alba (L.)

A large tree, with the potential to reach height (and spread) upwards of 100 feet. The quintessential white oak leaf; deeply lobed margins undulate from a narrow base to a wide middle and finally to a narrow apex. When you trace the outline we can note that these lobes are rounded, as opposed to in red oak where the lobes culminate in a bristled tip. White oak often displays a rich burgundy red fall color that is intensified when illuminated by the sun. Perhaps not a show stopper like the sugar maples or tupelos, instead white oaks are like the bit of dark chocolate after a flavorful meal- a savory treat best saved for near end. As the season progresses its leaves fade to brown and may persist, lifelessly on branches (the term for this characteristic is marcescent).

White oak (Quercus alba) on Spruce Knoll, opposite Stickwork installation

White oak (Quercus alba) on Spruce Knoll, opposite Stickwork installation

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, find a handful of white oaks near Sherwin Pond in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden. A group near the southeast side of the pond displays a wonderful spectrum of toasty browns to electric burgundies. A nearby swamp white oak (Q. bicolor) with shallower-lobed leaves and hotter red fall foliage adds welcomed interest. Just west of the canopy walk is a solitary white oak whose awkward crown is forgiven for its exquisite purple foliage. In the Myrtle S. Holden Wildflower Garden, two approximately 80 foot specimens near the stream at the north end of the garden exhibit russet-red fall color that beautifully contrasts with their ashy gray-brown bark. Just west of the Stickwork installation as you take the path toward Buttonbush Bog is an excellent specimen approximately 70 feet in height.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, a beautiful white oak specimen stands proudly between the Kitchen Garden and Inspiration Art Garden. This approximately 50-foot by 55-foot individual has consistently displayed stunning merlot colored fall foliage, the author’s personal favorite. But don’t take my word for it! Another, younger specimen can be found on the north side of the entrance ramp to the parking garage in the Campsey-Stauffer Gateway Garden. The reds of this approximately 30-foot individual are nicely back-dropped by the golden yellows of a row of yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea). Across the driveway in the Gateway Garden on the edge of Wade Oval is another similarly sized individual. A final, more mature individual looms over the east side of the Sunken Garden but plays second fiddle to the tantalizing fall display from a group of tupelo trees (Nyssa sylvatica).

Leaves of white oak (Quercus alba) frame a bed of rhododendrons in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden

Leaves of white oak (Quercus alba) frame a bed of rhododendrons in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden

Will I find it in Northeast Ohio forests?

Yes. White oak (Quercus alba) is a long-lived species native to the forests of eastern North America, including here in northeast Ohio.

Fun fact

If you have ever enjoyed a wine that was described as “oak-y” or that made your tongue dry or sipped on a barrel-aged whiskey, you most likely have a white oak to thank for your refreshment. White oaks historically have been the preferred wood source for cooperage, the making of barrels or casks for storing liquids.

Leaves of white oak (Quercus alba), Holden Arboretum

FOTHERGILLA
Fothergilla x intermedia (Ranney & Fantz)

A mass of fothergilla (Fothergilla x intermedia) planted in 1972 in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden

A shrub, typically about 5 feet in height (up to 10’) with leaves similar to, but generally smaller than, those of the related witch-hazels (Hamamelis). Leaves are rounded with conspicuously sunken mid- and lateral veins and a subtly toothed margin above the middle. Fall foliage on fothergillas is a party where everyone’s invited – yellows, oranges, pinks, greens, reds, purples, blues (yes we said blues, see the cultivars ‘Mt. Airy’ and ‘Blue Shadow’ to believe it)– it’s a technicolor dreamscape. RSVP at 9550 Sperry Road y’all! Now, as common with fall foliage displays of many species, the best, most decadent display of colors on fothergilla will be on plantings that receive full sun to partial shade. More shaded plantings are likely to blip yellow on the fall foliage radar before silently slipping into dormancy.

A mass of fothergilla (Fothergilla x intermedia) planted in 1972 in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, in the Helen S. Layer Rhododendron Garden, find shaded masses teasing yellow in beds on the east side of the garden. Continue towards Hourglass Pond and directly adjacent the sign for the pond a sun-soaked mass shows a delicious smorgasbord of color. The juxtaposition of shaded and sunnier groupings proves that while fothergilla can thrive in shadier spots, everyone wins with a little more sun. On the west side of Blueberry Pond is a massing of fothergilla with a backdrop of purple bloom maple (Acer pseudo-sieboldianum). If you head northwest from the Stickwork installation towards Blueberry Pond a nice planting of fothergilla is nestled under looming Norway spruce (Picea abies).

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, on the southern rim of Red Oak Lawn as you enter the Evans Restorative Garden a beautiful mass of the ‘Mt. Airy’ cultivar welcomes you with dazzling color. This grouping has been showy for much of the month and continues to delight. A shaded mass of the cultivar ‘Blue Shadow’ on East Boulevard along the semicircle stepping-stone path doesn’t necessarily wow in the fall foliage department but does offer a spectacular example of this cultivar’s blue foliage. Pretty neat.

Mass of fothergilla (Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Mt. Airy’) welcomes you to the Evans Restorative Garden, CBG

Will I find it in Northeast Ohio forests?

No. This hybrid taxon is a cross between the compact fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii) which hails from the coastal plains of southeastern North America, and the large fothergilla (F. major), also native to southeastern North America. Selected varieties are hardy enough to survive and blossom in our colder climate.

Mass of fothergilla (Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Mt. Airy’) welcomes you to the Evans Restorative Garden, CBG

 

Fun fact

The name of the genus which has also become the common name honors John Fothergill (1712-1780), a Quaker physician from Essex, who introduced and promoted plants native to the U. S. in England. Way to be John, way to be.

Leaves of fothergilla (Fothergilla x intermedia ‘Mt. Airy’) in the Evans Restorative Garden, CBG

Week of October 18th

TULIPTREE
Liriodendron tulipifera (L.)
A large tree, upwards of 50 feet tall, often to 100 feet tall. The tree usually has a large, straight trunk. The branches often do not emerge for many feet up the trunk. The leaves are simple, rather square-ish in shape, and medium to large. Some would say their leaf resembles a cat’s face* or perhaps a truncated maple leaf. The fall foliage on tuliptrees is buttery yellow to a rich gold. As the common name and specific epithet, tulipifera, imply, the blooms on this tree are reminiscent of the familiar spring bulb and bloom in late spring. The tan-brown cone-like fruit structures that follow sit upright on branch ends and persist after the leaves fall, a useful winter identification tool.

*imagination required

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, on the way to Stickworks installation, east of the Prairie Garden the gravel path is flanked with two sizable tuliptrees. Another one just east of the Prairie Garden in the same area towers prominently to a height of approximately 90 feet. A final, more northern specimen has a plump, conical shape and displays a spectrum of color from toasty brown to lingering green. Just west of the entrance to the Murch Canopy Walk are two young native tuliptrees, adding a touch of yellow to the smoldering reds of surrounding tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii). West of the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden, Jr. Butterfly Garden and north to the banks of Foster Pond, tuliptrees add glitz and glam to the color-splashed woodline. Find tuliptrees throughout Holden’s natural areas as well.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, the most prominent tuliptree on campus is the over 100-foot-tall specimen around which the treehouse was built in the Hershey Children’s Garden. Adjacent this specimen on White Oak Walk are a few others lining the eastern side of the footpath. The southernmost individual on White Oak Walk is “missing” something… due to rot in the upper trunk, this individual was topped but still stands at approximately 70 feet and maintains fair health. In the Woodland Garden there are several large, native tuliptrees that emerge to claim the canopy and are well-viewed from the Restorative Garden, Hershey Children’s Garden, and Kitchen Garden.

BLUESTAR
Amsonia hubrichtii  (Woods.)
A sub-shrub (a plant with a woody base but for all intents and purposes it is generally treated as an herbaceous perennial) typically 3 to 4 feet in height and forms a mass over time. Ah-mazing texture to this plant; its fine, radiating foliage invites you to caress it. The sharp, yellow fall foliage (sometimes with a hint of purple) contrasts nicely with darker, coarser textures of the garden. Amsonia hubrichtii is not the only bluestar in the gardens and is known to hybridize with other bluestars with broader leaves (as well exhibited in the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden, Jr. Butterfly Garden). Most bluestars exhibit pleasing yellow fall foliage, Amsonia hubrichtii was chosen to profile due to its supremely fine foliage. The common name, bluestar, is in reference to the pale blue star-shaped flowers that bloom in mid-spring. This time of year, the thin string bean-like developing fruit camouflages well with the leaves.

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, just beneath the Holden Patio is a large mass of Amsonia hubrichtii hybrids. This massing, as with most of the bluestars in the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden, Jr. Butterfly Garden, includes a spectrum of leaf sizes. Thin, thick, or somewhere in between, they all display cheery yellow fall foliage and are truly delightful to run your fingers through. Additionally, in the Butterfly Garden, find more hybrid masses north of the Reflective Pond. In the Display Garden, on the northern edge of the Lily Pool a healthy mass of a hybrid bluestar can be enjoyed as well. At Lantern Court, there are two masses of true Amsonia hubrichtii in the large, crescent-shaped bed south of the main visitor parking lot.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, find a small mass on the east side of the C.K. Patrick Perennial Border Garden. Across from this group of Amsonia hubrichtii is a mass of Amsonia tabernaemontana, a bluestar with a wider leaf. This offers visitors a good opportunity to compare the foliage of the two species. Additionally, in the Campsey-Stauffer Gateway Garden there is a healthy mass in the circular bed in the entrance drive directly in front of the main visitor entrance.

Week of October 11th

TULIPTREE
Liriodendron tulipifera (L.)
A large tree, upwards of 50 feet tall, often to 100 feet tall. The tree usually has a large, straight trunk. The branches often do not emerge for many feet up the trunk. The leaves are simple, rather square-ish in shape, and medium to large. Some would say their leaf resembles a cat’s face* or perhaps a truncated maple leaf. The fall foliage on tuliptrees is buttery yellow to a rich gold. As the common name and specific epithet, tulipifera, imply, the blooms on this tree are reminiscent of the familiar spring bulb and bloom in late spring. The tan-brown cone-like fruit structures that follow sit upright on branch ends and persist after the leaves fall, a useful winter identification tool.

*imagination required

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, on the way to Stickworks installation, east of the Prairie Garden the gravel path is flanked with two sizable tuliptrees. Another one just east of the Prairie Garden in the same area towers prominently to a height of approximately 90 feet. A final, more northern specimen has a plump, conical shape and displays a spectrum of color from toasty brown to lingering green. Just west of the entrance to the Murch Canopy Walk are two young native tuliptrees, adding a touch of yellow to the smoldering reds of surrounding tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) and swamp chestnut oak (Quercus michauxii). West of the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden, Jr. Butterfly Garden and north to the banks of Foster Pond, tuliptrees add glitz and glam to the color-splashed woodline. Find tuliptrees throughout Holden’s natural areas as well.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, the most prominent tuliptree on campus is the over 100-foot-tall specimen around which the treehouse was built in the Hershey Children’s Garden. Adjacent this specimen on White Oak Walk are a few others lining the eastern side of the footpath. The southernmost individual on White Oak Walk is “missing” something… due to rot in the upper trunk, this individual was topped but still stands at approximately 70 feet and maintains fair health. In the Woodland Garden there are several large, native tuliptrees that emerge to claim the canopy and are well-viewed from the Restorative Garden, Hershey Children’s Garden, and Kitchen Garden.

BLUESTAR
Amsonia hubrichtii  (Woods.)
A sub-shrub (a plant with a woody base but for all intents and purposes it is generally treated as an herbaceous perennial) typically 3 to 4 feet in height and forms a mass over time. Ah-mazing texture to this plant; its fine, radiating foliage invites you to caress it. The sharp, yellow fall foliage (sometimes with a hint of purple) contrasts nicely with darker, coarser textures of the garden. Amsonia hubrichtii is not the only bluestar in the gardens and is known to hybridize with other bluestars with broader leaves (as well exhibited in the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden, Jr. Butterfly Garden). Most bluestars exhibit pleasing yellow fall foliage, Amsonia hubrichtii was chosen to profile due to its supremely fine foliage. The common name, bluestar, is in reference to the pale blue star-shaped flowers that bloom in mid-spring. This time of year, the thin string bean-like developing fruit camouflages well with the leaves.

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, just beneath the Holden Patio is a large mass of Amsonia hubrichtii hybrids. This massing, as with most of the bluestars in the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden, Jr. Butterfly Garden, includes a spectrum of leaf sizes. Thin, thick, or somewhere in between, they all display cheery yellow fall foliage and are truly delightful to run your fingers through. Additionally, in the Butterfly Garden, find more hybrid masses north of the Reflective Pond. In the Display Garden, on the northern edge of the Lily Pool a healthy mass of a hybrid bluestar can be enjoyed as well. At Lantern Court, there are two masses of true Amsonia hubrichtii in the large, crescent-shaped bed south of the main visitor parking lot.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, find a small mass on the east side of the C.K. Patrick Perennial Border Garden. Across from this group of Amsonia hubrichtii is a mass of Amsonia tabernaemontana, a bluestar with a wider leaf. This offers visitors a good opportunity to compare the foliage of the two species. Additionally, in the Campsey-Stauffer Gateway Garden there is a healthy mass in the circular bed in the entrance drive directly in front of the main visitor entrance.

Week of October 4th

TUPELO, Nyssa sylvatica (Marsh.)

A medium to large tree with purple red to vibrant red fall foliage

Quick ID The leathery, glossy, simple leaves have a wavy margin and are ovate to egg-shaped. The fall color is most vibrant on the upper side of the leaf. Very pleasant to touch. On female trees you will find deep purple-blue fruit about the size of a black bean bundled in groups of 3 (or less if the fruit has fallen or been foraged, as they are rich in lipids and thus great fuel for migrating birds).

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum an approximately 50-foot specimen emerging from a bed of pachysandra (Pachysandra terminalis ‘Green Carpet’) greets visitors just north of the Hedge Garden, west of the main parking lot. This one has a nice pyramidal shape and is accompanied by another specimen to its northeast. A weeping male tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica ‘Pendula’) is planted on the east bank Reflective Pond in the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden Butterfly Garden. A 50-foot female tree towers over the southwest side of this garden as well. A beautiful specimen looms over the exit drive on the northwest edge of Lantern Court. Find tupelo lighting up the woodline just south of the Stickworks installation on Spruce Knoll. For the adventurous visitor, find a beautiful gumdrop-shaped native growing in the midst of the maple collection in Strong Acres field. Many more individuals and groupings add color to various areas of the arboretum.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden find a small grove of tupelo towering over the Sunken Garden, growing at the base of the eastern slope. This gang measures approximately 80 feet tall and have been tempting us with a confetti-like display of dapple red nearly all September into October. Also keep an eye on a large male tupelo at the south end of the Woodland Garden, west of the Japanese Garden. This individual is best viewed from the Sunken Garden or Red Oak Lawn.

STAGHORN SUMAC, Rhus typhina (L.)
A large shrub/small tree often growing en masse with red to red-orange to yellow fall foliage. Individual specimens can reach heights upwards of 20 feet, while spreading via underground shoots called stolons to form a clonal grove over time. The leaf is compound and can reach approximately 2 feet in length. Leaflets emerge opposite one another (with the exception of one terminal leaflet) on softly hairy rachis (the main stem of a compound leaf). Individual leaflets have a serrate margin and an accentuated leaf tip. The erect, deep red, fuzzy fruits are clustered on terminal branches, ripening this time of year. Young branches are covered in a fine red/brown hairs, resembling deer antlers in their velvet covered stage, hence the common name “staghorn”.

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, find suckering masses of the cut-leaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’) growing along the northern edge of Reflecting Pond as well as north of Crystal Pond in the Arlene & Arthur S. Holden Butterfly Garden. More cut-leaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina [Tiger Eyes]) is planted en masse in beds on the northwest side of the Eliot & Linda Paine Rhododendron Discovery Garden. This variety was earlier to turn color this year than other varieties in the garden. A large mass of staghorn sumac reaching heights over 20 feet can be found in the Myrtle S. Holden Wildflower Garden, north of the bog, southwest of the Shelter House area. Also find a tall mass south of the Hedge Garden in the Display Garden’s spillway. At Lantern Court, masses can be found planted along Kirtland-Chardon Road.  

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, find a suckering mass of the cut-leaf staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina ‘Laciniata’) in the wooded area just south of the Inspiration Butterfly Garden, north of the service yard.

Week of Sept 27th

RED MAPLEAcer rubrum (L.)

A medium to large tree with purple-red to red-orange fall foliage. The leaf has 3 (to 5) irregularly toothed main lobes that somewhat resembles a duck’s foot. Maples (Acer) are one of few types of trees in our region that have opposite branching, and thus this is a useful identification feature. This time of year there is no fruit or flowers present on red maples.

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, find showy red maples and red maple cultivars on the south side of Blueberry Pond, lining Kirtland-Chardon road adjacent Sperry Road, in the Wildflower Garden, and in the Display Garden. Also find red maples in the natural areas.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, find a large specimen on the northeast side of White Oak Walk and another just southwest of the boardwalk’s treehouse structure on the slope above the boardwalk. This one is perhaps best viewed facing east from the Kitchen Garden.

VIRGINIA SWEETSPIREItea virginica (L.)

A shrub, usually 3-5 feet tall (up to 6.5’), with long-lasting deep maroon/burgundy to red fall foliage, occasionally showing some orange or yellow in transition. The leaf is simple and serrate-margined. This time of year find persistent fruit in drooping clusters.

Where do I find this at The Holden Arboretum?

At the arboretum, find the cultivar ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and the more compact form [Little Henry] planted en masse on the western edge of the Eliot and Linda Paine Rhododendron Discovery Garden. Mass plantings of the species and the cultivars ‘Henry’s Garnet’ and ‘Saturnalia’ are also found at Lantern Court.

Where do I find this at the Cleveland Botanical Garden?

At the botanical garden, find this plant on the Evan’s Restorative Garden terrace, on the southern rim of Red Oak Lawn, along White Oak Walk, and in the Campsey-Stauffer Gateway Garden along either side of the garage entrance and in the traffic circle planting.