Florida is not known for the brilliant fall color enjoyed by some of our northern neighbors. But, we do have a number of trees from which to choose to provide some fall color in our landscapes here in North Florida.
Our native flowering dogwood provides some change in color before dropping its leaves. You can expect a red to maroon color in dogwood leaves during fall.
Some of North Florida’s native maples produce good color each fall. Red maple provides brilliant red, orange and sometimes yellow leaves. The native Florida Maple, Acer saccharum var. floridum, displays a combination of bright yellow and orange color during fall. And there are many Japanese maples that provide striking fall color.
Blackgum, Nyssa sylvatica, is another excellent native tree. This tree is slow in its growth rate but can eventually grow to seventy-five feet in height. It provides a bright show of red to deep purple fall foliage. It deserves more use in our landscapes.
Crapemyrtle gives varying degrees of orange, red and yellow in its leaves before they fall. And there are many cultivars – some that grow several feet to almost thirty feet in mature height.
There are a number of dependable oaks for fall color, too. Shumard, Nuttall and Turkey are a few to consider. These oaks have fairly dark green deeply-lobed leaves during summer turning vivid red to red-orange in fall. Turkey oak, sometimes referred to as “scrub” oak, is common on our deep sandy soils. It is short-lived as compared to most oak species. It normally does not grow very large in height or in trunk diameter.
Sweetgum is another common native tree that comes to mind when considering fall color. Some people dislike this tree because of its one to three inch round fruit (commonly called sweetgum balls), which can be a nuisance as they fall on the ground around the tree. And this tree can produce large surface roots that may be a problem for mowers, nearby curbs and sidewalks. But its star-shaped leaves turn bright red, purple, yellow or orange in fall.
Other trees provide bright yellow fall leaves. Our native yellow poplar is an example. Our native hickories are covered in yellow leaves most falls. And it’s difficult to find a more crisp yellow than fall ginkgo leaves.
These trees represent a few choices for fall color. Some of the native trees may be difficult to find at local nurseries. But, if you can include some of these plants in your landscape, you’ll enjoy the color of fall for many years in your own yard.
Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, November 22, 2016