Written by Kennedy Zittel, Woodland Dunes intern
When the weather gets a bit cooler, when the birds begin to migrate to warmer places, and when the leaves begin to change colors, you know that fall has finally arrived. As the colors of the leaves change from different shades of green to golden yellows, oranges, bright reds, and even deep purples, you can’t help but marvel at how beautiful the forests have become. This past week my field botany class went for a walk around UWGB’s arboretum where we were looking at how the same genus of trees, such as maples or oaks, display such a wide variety of colors. Now as I walk the trails here at Woodland Dunes, I cannot help but be awestruck over how the trees around us can paint such a beautiful sunrise scene.
Wisconsin’s native oak trees can range anywhere from yellows all the way to deep purple colors. Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor) displays different shades of yellow and orange during the fall season. Hill’s oak (Q. ellipsoidalis) and bur oak (Q. macrocarpa) have leaves that change from light yellow to brown as the season progresses. Scarlet oak (Q. coccinea) like the name suggests display a beautiful scarlet color. Chinquapin oak (Q. muehlenbergii), pin oak (Q. palustris), northern red oak (Q. rubra), and black oak (Q. velutina) exhibit reddish-brown to brown leaf colors. My personal favorite of the oak colorations, the white oak (Q. alba) turns a deep burgundy-purple color in the fall.
Wisconsin’s native maple trees showcase beautiful sunrise colors in varied shades of yellows, oranges, and reds. Often you can even find maple trees showing multiple colors of leaves on the same tree in early fall, how unbe-leaf-able! Silver maple (Acer saccharinum) and box elder (A. negundo) are found in various shades of yellow during the fall season. Norway maples (A. platanoides), sugar maples (A. saccharum), red maples (A. rubrum), and mountain maples (A. spicatum) turn into golden yellows, burnt oranges, and bright reds. Amur maples (A. ginnala) are a vibrant red color in the fall.
Going for a walk on the Woodland Dunes trails (or any trail nearby) is one of my favorite fall activities. As my final college semester reaches the halfway mark, my assignments and research projects have been accumulating more and more. Getting outside and seeing the beautiful fall colors is a wonderful way to relieve some of that stress. With the times being as chaotic and uncertain as they are now, I think that we can all take a bit of inspiration from the trees. Even though the season is changing and going through new chaos as well so to speak, the trees still stand tall and have their leaves become a canvas displaying beautiful sunrise colors all around us. As things get a bit difficult for us all, we too can learn to adapt, stand tall, and turn a new leaf. The next time you go out for a walk, take a look at all of the leaf color variations that the trees display, you too will probably be surprised at how much of a range of colors our forests can display for us.