The autumnal equinox approaches and our trees are showcasing their marvelous fall colors. Yellows, reds, purples, and oranges give us one last surge of beauty before we fast on the grays of winter. Amongst all of the species that surround us, there are a few that rank as champions in the category of best fall color.
Ginkgo biloba, the maidenhair tree, is a living fossil. Fossilized ginkgo leaves have been dated as being hundreds of millions of years old. In fact, if you look closely, you’ll see that they are included in the Milwaukee Public’s Museums dinosaur exhibit. Ginkgoes are incredibly resilient trees having practically no disease or insect issues and a high tolerance for tough, urban conditions. That means unblemished ornate leaves all summer long that culminate in a perfect, golden yellow in the fall.
Another favorite of mine is Liquidambar styraciflua, or American sweet gum. This tree is not commonly found in southeastern Wisconsin. Its native range is a few states south and east of us, but sweet gums have proven to be a reliable choice for Wisconsinites over the last few decades. Like the ginkgo, sweet gums are durable enough to withstand tough conditions. In spring, their unique star-shaped leaves emerge and remain a solid green all summer. In fall, sweet gums delight us with a myriad of colors. Burgundies, purples, oranges, reds, yellows, are all included in the sweet gum’s spectrum. The final effect mimics the mesmerizing glow of embers that remain after a night spent around a campfire.
American sweet gum is not the only tree produces many fall colors on one individual. Cultivars of Fraxinus americana, or white ash, can also produce breathtaking fall color effects. F. pennsylvanica, or green ash, also provides a showy, yellow fall color. Unfortunately, as you may know, an invasive beetle called Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) currently threatens all ash species and cultivars. Ash trees are native to Wisconsin and are one of the most commonly planted trees in our landscapes. Do you have any ash trees on your property? Have you considered protecting them against EAB? Aside from admiring the changing colors, fall is also a good time to treat your tree for borers. An insecticide can be applied to the soil around a particular tree. It will stay only in that area and, in spring, will be taken up by the tree’s roots and then dispersed throughout its canopy. This is a non-invasive approach for the tree, and an affordable one for homeowners.
Our trees provide us with countless benefits. Their beauty is just one amongst many. So take some time this fall to appreciate and discover how much trees really do enrich our lives.
“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.” –Albert Camus