Fall color from native trees
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URBANA -- The autumn
landscape can be a rich, vibrant tapestry of low-maintenance trees
if homeowners make the right choices when buying plants and placing
them in the yard, said Barbara Bates, a University of Illinois
Extension horticulture educator based in Kane County.
"For the larger, more open spaces in
your yard, it would be hard to beat a black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica),"
she said. "This tree is also known as a black gum. At maturity it
has a pyramidal form reaching to 50 feet. Its picturesque, crooked
branches lend it a rugged look. Black gum has a reliable golden to
scarlet red fall color. The fruit is a blue berry that has moderate
value as a food source for birds.
"Black gum prefers a slightly acid soil
and is adaptable to sun or part shade, preferring moist soil but
tolerating dry. It is hardy to zone 4, which extends into southern
Wisconsin. In summer, this tree presents a rounded, somewhat open
form in the landscape, displaying glossy green leaves."
For a shimmer of gold, Bates recommends
quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides). It is native to open areas and
transitions zones where the woodland meets the prairie. Aspen
prefers moist soils in full sun. The tree grows quickly, reaching 50
feet at maturity. In summer the broad leaves whisper and dance in
the breeze. In winter, the creamy white bark adds contrast against
evergreens and brick. Aspen naturalize well in groves.
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"Two smaller accent trees that have
outstanding fall color are witch hazel and wahoo," she said. "Witch
hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is a rounded, open small tree reaching
20 feet in height and growing slightly broader. In addition to rich
lemony golden-colored foliage, this small tree produces a starlike
fragrant bloom in fall. Witch hazel is intolerant of full sun and
dry soil, preferring moist soils and partial shade. It is
exceptionally pest-resistant. Several types of birds eat the seed."
Wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) is a
must for those who seek something unique for their landscape. "While
this plant is relatively common in the wild, it has been largely
overlooked in the trade, in favor of its cousin burning bush (E. alatus)," Bates said. "Unlike its showy crimson cousin, wahoo turns
a brilliant warm fuchsia pink in fall. Its growth habit is an open
tree form to 20 feet. The shiny red seeds are borne in bright
fuchsia pink capsules that dangle from the branches well into
winter. The stems remain green until they are several years old.
Wahoo makes an excellent understory tree or a large multistem
Bates said that these native trees will
add interesting texture and form to your landscape year-round, but
in fall they will be the envy of the neighborhood.
additional information, contact the local Extension office or visit
Extension's tree website at
[University of Illinois news