TREES AND VEGETATION
Why do leaves change color in the fall?
Click here for an article by By Tom Wharton,
The Salt Lake Tribune
and "At a Glance" Ten great Utah autumn drives!
See www.TreeBrowser.org maintained by Utah State University
Fall Color in Northern Utah
by Dr. Mike Kuhns
USU Extension Forestry Specialist
Northern Utah has great fall color. Here are some descriptions of the Utah native
trees that contribute the most to the fall color display.
|Canyon or Bigtooth Maple (Acer grandidentatum) at right - This tree arguably is the top
provider of fall color in northern Utah (and the rest of Utah too). It occurs on
lower mountain slopes up to mid elevations as a small to medium-sized, shrubby to
upright tree. Sometimes referred to as western sugar maple, it resembles the eastern
sugar maple with its brilliant orange-red fall color. Many individuals and tour
buses make their way through Logan Canyon every fall to view these incredible trees,
but it presents an outstanding fall color display throughout Utah's canyons and
uplands. Unlike some other native trees, this tree also does well when planted in
valley locations, as long as it receives a little irrigation.
|Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) at right - Aspens also vie for the top color title in
northern Utah and throughout the state. Their color can be orange or even
orange-red, but usually tends more toward bright yellow. As opposed to the more scattered canyon maples, aspen usually occurs in fairly dense stands that may be
pure aspen or may have conifers mixed in. Aspen stands or clumps usually are uniform
in color and are sometimes called clones, referring to their main reproduction
method of sprouting from roots, creating genetically identical groups. Aspens
sometimes intermix with canyon maples at mid elevations, but extend to much higher
elevations, reaching up above 10,000 feet. Unfortunately people have difficulty
growing this popular tree in landscapes at low elevations due to insect and disease
problems that aren't an issue for high elevation native trees.
|Gambel or Scrub Oak (Quercus gambelii) at right - Occurring as a shrub as much as a tree, our
native Gambel oak can provide strong to muted fall color, mostly in the range of
orange to red-orange, but sometimes more red-brown. Much of the strength of its fall
display depends on the prevalence of leaf spot diseases and leaf feeding insects in
a particular year. This tree grows at low foothill to mid elevations throughout much
of northern Utah and the rest of the state, but does not occur north of southern
Cache and Boxelder Counties. This tree is seldom planted in cultivated landscapes,
but shows up here and there where developed areas extend up into its natural range.
These three tree species are responsible for most of Utah's fall color, but there
are a number of other species that contribute. Some to look for (all can be found in
the mountains throughout most of Utah) include:
- Greene Mountain-ash (Sorbus scopulina) at right. Though small and often shrubby, this tree
has outstanding orange-yellow fall leaf and fruit color.
- Black or Douglas Hawthorn (Crataegus douglasii). This large shrub or small tree
has wonderful red, orange, or yellow fall color; sometimes all three on the same
- River Birch (Betula occidentalis). A multi-stemmed tree with a pleasant, muted
gold color, this can be found along streams in the mountains.
- Serviceberries (Amelanchier species) below. Utah serviceberry and Saskatoon serviceberry
are small trees or shrubs with yellow, red, and purple fall color.
"Trees of Utah and the Intermountain West" by Dr. Mike Kuhns, available at many bookstores and online.