California Fall Color

Dave at The Home Garden is hosting The Fall Color Project, collecting posts from all over the country (and beyond) showing beautiful fall color. And while we can't compete with the blaze of golden aspens or red maples, many towns have planted liquidambar and Chinese pistache trees to delight the hearts of those starved for fall color.

But several California Native trees are deciduous as well, and some of them go out in a blaze of golden glory, highlighted by the evergreen oaks and the dark blue November sky. I had the great fortune to go on a hike last week in southern Santa Clara county near Gilroy, where I encountered three of the most beautiful Norther California fall color trees.

Below, a big-leaf maple (Acer macrophyllum), showing off its stuff. The hanging lichen, still dry, will soon get green and make this maple look like Tree Beard. 

Here, a close-up of the same type of tree taken almost a month earlier, at Tilden regional park.

Not far from the maples, we came across a deciduous oak that was turning a beautiful slightly reddish yellow. Based on the leaf shape, I believe this might be Valley Oak (Quercus lobata).

Walking on, we were struck by the majestic beauty of Platanus racemosa (California sycamore). Massive trees with attractive gray stems, ablaze in bright gold.

Especially enjoyable were the rows of walnut trees planted on the former ranch where we hiked. I'm not sure whether these are California walnuts or not -- the arrangement in rows clearly showed they had been planted -- but I can't resist showing them?

And maybe in close-up?

As we hiked, I enjoyed the smell of the leaves inviting memories from childhood, their rustling as I walked -- and the knowledge that soon, very soon, the winter storms would blow through, bringing an end to the color and a beginning to the fall growing season. Soon, the hills will turn green, and the long dry summer, and even the golden fall a memory.


Yellow seems to be the theme there. We've been seeing a bit of it down here too, though our sycamores aren't turning yet. But the color I'm starting to see most here is all the new green--the joys of approaching winter in a mediterranean climate!
Thank you so much for this post. I was lamenting in the past few weeks how all the fall color seems to be in transplanted non-native trees in manicured yards and parks. It's good to know there are a couple CA natives that turn color, too, that isn't poison oak.
VP said…
We've had a lot of yellow and gold this autumn too. I particularly like your line of walnuts :)
Christine said…
What a lovely, dreamy post! The scent of walnut leaves immediately sprang into my memory reading about the ones you happened upon. Calycanthus also turns yellow- and Ribes turn a strange reddish goldish color, too.
It's funny, half in jest I almost posted a fall color post this morning, as our poison oak is ablaze in its fall redness at the moment. A good thing while I was traipsing through the woods. At least it's easy to see this time of year! We do have the big leaf maple here, a few at least that help to break up the monotony of green, but I wish we had a deciduous oak. All of our oaks are evergreen. Maybe I can remedy that, but I'll be quite old before one grows to any great size here!
Gail said…
I love that you are moving into your green/growing season as we are moving into winter! Our fall color is mostly blue skies and golden leaves with an occasional dogwood or viburnum for reds. gail
Anonymous said…
Gold was the color most prevalent this fall in Niagara Falls. But sadly, the trees are mostly bare and the perennials are turning to mush. Winter is creeping in with out the beauty to go with it.
Andrea said…
So there are also differences in color with yours and the other more colder climes. We also have some deciduous trees here, but leaves don't turn yellow at the same time, they just fall without much fanfare. We are deprived of these scenes but we have the advantage of having contiuous green colors around.
p3chandan said…
Nice to see your trees and plants beautiful in any season!
graceonline said…
Gorgeous stroll through an autumn landscape. Thank you so much! I am nearly sneezing with the dust and leaf mold, and enjoying the thought immensely, in my city-bound walls.
Beautiful colors! I especially like the California sycamore. Do they get the mottled bark? The walnut rows are very cool as well. I'm sorry to get to your post so late, a computer virus has shut me down for several days now. I'll have a post up in the morning if all goes as planned!
I love walnut trees, they always seem to be such wonderful shapes! Gorgeous yellows. Spectacular garden shrubs and trees are all very well and wonderful, but you can't beat a walk under full size natives, so much atmosphere!
It's funny, but I don't think of California for fall color, but you've proved that to be a misconception.
Janis said…
Lovely photos, "Town." However briefly, between heat and wind, always enjoy the fall colors, even down here in So Cal.

Just to clarify your oak ID. Believe your photo depicts Quercus kelloggii (Black Oak.) It's leaves have somewhat jagged or spiney lobes. Your link goes to photos and description of Quercus lobata (Valley Oak.) In the linked photos of latter, you'll see smoothly rounded lobes, especially on close up. I'm not an expert, but I was recently tree shopping for a friend. And, Valley Oaks grow all around where I live. Both are precious!
Cindy said…
Ditto on your photo being the black oak with pointed lobes. And they do have lovely fall color. The walnut is English walnut because of the large size of the leaflets compared to the CA black walnut. The peculiar thing about CA fall color is that some plants respond to the upcoming winter cold by dropping their deciduous leaves, while others respond to the winter rains by putting on new growth. One of my favs this time of year is the evergreen coastal redwood which is getting some brown leaf tips to make room for new growth; more
at Dusty Cusp of Summer And then, of course, there is the fabulous seasonal clouds that are giving us great fall sunrises and sunsets.