Get Growing Blog

Fall Colors: Vermont We Aren’t

November 1, 2022


But Ohio’s Fall colors are spectacular!

This is a time of year, when Ohioans need to remind themselves of how lucky they are.  Not all Americans have the privilege of living in a deciduous forest biome.  Here are some of my favorite trees at the Holden Arboretum and around my neighborhood.

Many of the photos included were taken in mid-October, so by the time you read this, many of the leaves will be on the ground.  I just want to highlight some of the best tree species for fall color that we have at Holden and in the northern Ohio areas.  This has been a nice year for fall color, so maybe some of these pictures will prolong the joy of fall color for you.

I really like the juxtaposition of colors of these trees in the Main Display Garden just north of the Tree Allee.  The chartreuse green tree is a Magnolia, and it has turned a bit more yellow over the last week. 

Figure 1. Magnolia ‘Ice Chalice’, Acer saccharum, and Acer rubrum ‘Red Sunset’

Sugar Maple

Our sugar maples really shine, especially some of the cultivated varieties that we have planted here on the grounds of the Holden Arboretum.  Located next to the visitor center and the east end of the Butterfly Garden, Acer saccharum ‘Bonfire’ is a beautiful orange red. Acer saccharum ‘Green Mountain’ and ‘Commemoration’ are in the Main Display Garden near Lily Pool and Lotus Pond respectively.

Figure 2. Acer saccharum cultivars: ‘Bonfire’, ‘Green Mountain’, and ‘Commemoration’


I think my favorite tree for fall color is Nyssa sylvatica, commonly known as tupelo or blackgum tree.  The fall foliage is glossy, and generally has red, orange, yellow, green and sometimes a touch of purple on the same tree.  I am lucky enough to have one growing in the median of my street, it was a selling point for my house for this tree lover.  It is not a commonly known tree, but it is native to eastern North America. 

Figure 3. Nyssa sylvatica street tree and glossy fall foliage


The sweetgum tree, Liquidambar styraciflua, is another fall color standout.  It has star shaped leaves, and often has several different colors on the same tree, and frequently on the same leaf.  Purple to aubergine is frequently one of those colors!  Yes, please!  And yes, it is also native to eastern North America.

Figure 4. Liquidambar styraciflua – commonly known as sweetgum. Look closely, several leaves are multi-color.

Other Notables

I like a nice yellow shade as well.  Other standouts native to the North America include river birch, Betula nigra, honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos, and witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana.  Honeylocust has small delicate leaflets and drops its leaves a little earlier than most other trees.  I missed my chance to photograph the light airy canopy. 

Figure 5. Betula nigra – commonly known as river birch has yellow fall color and lovely peeling bark.

Ginkgo biloba is so yellow it is practically neon.  It is native to China and is considered a living fossil. 

Figure 6. Ginkgo biloba ‘Golden Colonnade’ looks beautiful with the fall flowering Aster tartaricus ‘Jindai’ in the foreground

I hope my review of popular trees for fall color inspire you to plant one or several in your yard.

Happy Fall!

Sandi Cesarov

Sandi Cesarov


Sandi Cesarov is a horticulturist at the Holden Arboretum campus. She earned a degree in Botany from Miami University. Her little gardener is excited for raking leaves and jumping into the piles.

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