When fall color is mentioned, Northeastern US is what comes to my mind first. People flock there every autumn to soak in the beauty of bright oranges, reds, golds and every shade in between. Surprisingly, we have some of that gorgeous color right here in our own backyard. It may not be as overwhelming or long lasting, but it is inspiring.
Prairie Flameleaf Sumacs (Rhus lanceolata) along the county roads are the first sign of cooler temperatures. Their orangish red foliage and deep red brown berries signal that winter is coming.The trees on the ridge behind our house can change color as early as mid October or as late as mid November. This year it was late. In fact, we wondered if there would be any color at all.
For years, the county extension agents and aborists have recommended that only native trees be planted, with a strong emphasis on oaks.
Red Oaks are in the red or black oak groups. There are only 15 species in this group. They typically produce acorns every two years. Spanish Oaks are also in this group.
The brilliant golden red on this particular tree lasts for a good month. But we have another tree that was supposed to be a Red Oak that has no color. The leaves on it turn brown early. I now suspect that it is a Pin Oak. I’ve read that when young, it’s difficult to tell the two apart, and that nurseries often mislabel them.
In the early 1980’s the term Oak Decline took on a ominous meaning as groves of oaks died. Since then, Oak blight or Oak Wilt has claimed thousands of trees in Texas. So the powers that be have been recommending diversification. They suggest planting other types of trees, even those that aren’t native, but have adapted well.
Oaks in the White Oak family have not yet succumb to Oak wilt, so those are still recommended. The Chinkapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) in the above picture falls into that category. Others in the white oak family that will grow here are Lacey Oak, Bur Oak, Post Oak, and Bigelow Oak. Bigelow is known as Shin Oak locally and forms thickets that usually only grow up to 10 feet tall.
In Texas there are 23 oaks in the white oak group. These produce acorns annually.
The benefits of trees form a long list. Their beauty in different seasons is just one that I appreciate.
“Anyone who thinks women talk too much has never sat through a six-hour Super Bowl pregame show.” Nora Barry