Sunday, November 19, 2017

Small Trees with Good Fall Color

Wow, was that the fastest fall ever? Actually no, it’s not over yet, but not everyone appreciates the deep fall tones of the native oaks. And not everyone can have an oak in their yard – oaks are called canopy trees for a reason. Yards seem to be getting smaller so it stands to reason that folks might like some small tree recommendations and that is what this post is about. In some cases, large shrubs can work as well.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis)
Serviceberry (Amelanchier sp.) is a small to medium tree depending on what species you select. It is also one of the more available native trees, especially thanks to a few cultivars that have been developed. It is one of the first native trees to bloom. I have written about it before as a good plant to support fruit-loving birds. The fall color is outstanding, especially on trees in full sun.

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is a Southern classic but not everyone realizes how good the fall color is until the plants turn glorious shades of red and burgundy. This one is good for part shade conditions, especially afternoon shade. It is also a good plant for fruit-loving birds. I have written about flowering dogwood’s cousins before. Those species are large shrubs and small trees also, but the fall color is not very showy in my experience.

Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

Chalkbark maple (Acer leucoderme) is one of the smaller native maples. Mostly found in the northern half of Georgia, it has a small range in the upper Coastal Plain according to USDA.  Its leaves resemble small versions of sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and the fall color is similar but more intense. I love watching the roadside near me for the annual coloring of a small grove of chalkbark maple trees. It was gorgeous as ever this year. A similar tree is Florida maple, and I have written about that one in my backyard before.

Chalkbark maple (Acer leucoderme)
Leaves of Acer leucoderme

Viburnums in general have great fall color but they are considered shrubs. Two of the larger species have upright forms that allow them to double as small trees: blackhaw viburnum (Viburnum prunifolium) and the rusty blackhaw (V. rufidulum). Blackhaw viburnum has a more vibrant color compared to the often more muted tones of the rusty blackhaw.

Viburnum rufidulum
Viburnum prunifolium

Musclewood (Carpinus caroliniana) is another small to medium tree, slowly growing to about 30 feet. It naturally grows in woodlands where along the edges it sometimes looks more like a shrub and turns beautiful shades of red and orange. In more shade, it seems to be a bright yellow. I love its assortment of common names which include American hornbeam, ironwood, and blue beech.

Carpinus caroliniana
Carpinus caroliniana

I hope this helps you find some ideas for smaller spaces. If you’re looking for good fall color in Georgia but are not limited by size, take a look at my earlier post on Dependable Fall Color.

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