Fall colors are spectacular showstoppers

On the Trail

Email Gloria Glasser at whirlawaygig@gmail.com.

Email Gloria Glasser at whirlawaygig@gmail.com.

A friend from rural Agoura who is visiting her hometown outside of Knoxville, Tenn., sent an email regarding her disappointment that “the leaves have not turned.” She’s in an area typically renowned for its fall foliage spectacle.

“The weather’s remained very warm,” she wrote, “and everything’s just green, how dull.”

Well, guess it’s time to beat it back to SoCal where, despite our own torrid autumn weather, the turning from “dull green” to “incendiary colors” is already underway, from Calabasas to Newbury Park and beyond.

The cottonwoods at Triunfo Community Park in Westlake Village have assumed a new identity. All summer long their densely clustered verdant foliage provided welcome shade and a rustling melody. Now their glossy heart-shaped leaves are turning to gold and dropping to pool on the park’s lawn like glowing, scattered valentines from Dame Nature as she bids adieu to summer.

With so many tree- lined streets and boulevards, and lush roadway medians also bearing trees, residents of the Las Virgenes and Conejo valleys don’t have to travel far for a fall foliage tour. Usually you don’t even have to travel far from home because your own property or your neighbors’ lots may contain deciduous trees that, like the cottonwoods, engage in the annual chameleon colors contest.

Showstoppers include birch—whose beautiful white-and-black bark is striking enough, then add luminous golden autumn leaves and you’re living in a Robert Frost poem—the catalpa and mulberry, which have enormous leaves; the tulip tree, which has uniquely shaped leaves; and the ash, with its shaggy sickle-shaped leaves, redefine the word “bright,” especially on an overcast day. Their many varied shades of yellow seem to pulsate against a gray backdrop.

Western redbud is a California native tree whose allaround good looks have made it popular in home gardens and on city streets, such as the recent planting along remodeled Agoura Road off Kanan Road. Usually a small tree, the redbud displays an incandescent quality in autumn as its spade-shaped leaves morph from a unique bluish-green to an entirely different hue, closer to a tropical sunset.

In our area, the ancient ginkgo is often seen as a slender tree growing in a spire-like form. In its deciduous phase the tree may appear rather spindly and gawky. In its foliage phase, the tree sheds its ugly duckling aspect. Its fan-shaped leaves are elegant and stunning when green, then the entire tree lights up like birthday candles in autumn, eye-catching even from a distance.

Immensely popular for ample reason, the sweetgum or liquidambar may drive passersby nuts with its spiky seedballs that trip up the unwary. But some pratfalls are worth the risk, for the tree is an entire fall foliage tour unto itself. Leaves are scarlet and maroon. Or gold speckled with crimson. Or salmon blushed yellow. Or saffron with burgundy freckles.

Check out the exciting visual autumn bounty that also includes color fests presented by crape myrtle, Japanese maple, apricot and peach trees, and even the poison oak shrub on nature trails, before the winds rake the branches bare and all the swirling colors flee for another year.

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