The very blustery winds we’ve had over the last two weeks are very hard on the fall foliage. The wind has been ripping the leaves off the trees before we have a good chance to admire the color change.
No, Quartz Mountain Nature Park doesn’t have the great red and orange colored leaves. Those tend to be on maples and we don’t have any maple trees. We do have lots of yellows in a variety of shades. The earliest yellows are the Western Soapberries. These are the trees that have lost their leaves already. Soapberry trees are still striking as their berries have faded from an orange to a golden color. The berries are translucent so you can see the dark seed inside the golden berry. They do look gorgeous against a clear blue sky.
The Hop tree also changes colors earlier than most. This tree is easy to spot as is rather small, with smooth, reddish gray bark and its leaves are compound with 3 parts. In the spring and fall the leaves are a darker green and shiny. In the fall they turn a bright yellow with just a hint of green undertones.
Also in the yellow tones are Cottonwoods, Mulberries, Walnuts, Little Walnuts and Black Locusts leaves. The upper leaves of the cottonwoods are starting to turn- especially those tress that are a bit further from damp soils and were stressed by the long stretch without rain.
Quartz Mountain Nature Park has few plants that have leaves in the red hues come fall. The truly crimson leaved vines climbing tree trunks are Poison Ivy vines. They have “leaves of three, so leave them be”. The vines that have 5 leaves, with a darker red, almost a burgundy shade are Virginia Creeper. They are not poisonous to the touch. Their berries may be poisonous if eaten-the literature is divided on that. With some references stating boldly “poisonous” and others “may be poisonous if consumed in large quantities”. To be safe, do not eat their berries!
The only other plants we have at Quartz Mountain Nature Park that have red leaves are the Sumacs. We do not have Poison Sumac (it has white berries that hang down and is found in swampy areas). We used to have a lot of Staghorn Sumac, with fuzzy, dark red berries that were on upright stalks-like deer antlers or “stag’s horns”. The drought of 2011 really hit the Staghorn Sumacs hard. Very few of these shrubs/small trees survived in the Main Park. There are patches of them along the irrigation canal near the Quartz Mountain Nature Park entrance sign. Why not drive out this week and admire the many shades of yellow and the few bursts of red leaves we have?