Fall Colors

When you walk around the Morton Arboretum, there’s an abundance of trees and right now they’re sporting their fall coats. Plant Clinic Assistant Sharon Yiesley says it’s a combination of genetics and the environment that bring the beautiful colors.

“Right now, the weather we’re having this week, where we’re having the warm days followed by the cool nights, that’s a real good producer of fall color,” said Yiesla.

In summer all leaves are green but in autumn there’s not a set color. Leaves can be red, orange, yellow, and brown. Some of those colors are in the leaves already. Others appear in fall.

“The yellows and the oranges that we see, those pigments are in the leaves all summer long,” said Yiesla. “We just don’t see them because the green is dominant. The reds that come in, they’re produced in fall. They’re not there during the summer.”

Every week arboretum staff release an Autumn Color Report. The report lists which trees are beginning to color and where they’re located in the park.

“Some people will want to want to come maybe when the sugar maples are at their best, some people want to see the ashes or the hickories, so that helps people plan when they come and visit,” said Yiesla.

While you can drive down any street and see the colors of fall, Yiesla says what makes the arboretum different is the vast amount of land and the variety of trees they have.

“We’ve got 1,700 acres and we’ve got a lot of trees, so when you put that many trees there you’re going to get a spectacular display,” said Yiesla.

There’s no set formula so you can’t predict what fall will bring. But Yiesla believes the next two to three weeks will be the most colorful, especially if the weather stays warm. The Morton Arboretum is open from seven in the morning until sunset year-round.


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