Fall is a time when a number of tree leaves change from green to bright shades of yellow, orange or red. According to scientists at the University of Wisconsin, the red pigment in red color changing trees serves as a form of sunscreen which helps to protect the leaves from sunlight as the tree stores nutrients during autumn. It was also found that trees and plants without the red pigment in leaves were damaged more by the sunlight in fall and were less able to recover the lost leaf nutrients as compared to foliage which does turn red.
Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) is a small, deciduous tree native to China, Korea and Japan. The tree grows to a mature height of about 30 feet with an equal width. Kousa dogwood has 2 to 4 inch long, ovate, dark medium green leaves with hairy undersides. The leaves turn a dark red color in the fall. Kousa dogwood blooms with small, greenish yellow flowers surrounded by four, white, pointed bracts which mature to a pink color. The tree bears dull red, pendant like fruit resembling large raspberries in the summer. The mealy, edible fruit ripens between August and October.
Black Gum Tree
The black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica) belongs to the tupelo tree family and grows to a mature height of 75 to 80 feet. The hardwood tree is long-lived and is found extensively in the acidic waters of swamps. The branches of the tree are non-symmetrical in growth and the bark is reddish brown to gray in color. With age the bark grows ridges and plates resembling alligator scales. The color of the black gum tree foliage is among the earliest to change in the fall, going a bright, glossy red. The light coming in through the thin leaves gives the tree a glowing appearance with the red leaves in fall.
Amur maple (Acer ginnala) is a small tree which grows to a mature height of about 20 feet with an equal width. The multi-stemmed tree is a native of northern Asia and is favored as a specimen tree for its bright red fall leaf color. The leaf color is generally a dark green on top with lighter undersides. Amur maple adapts well to a variety of soils except poorly drained or alkaline soils. The tree is commonly used as windbreak and for highway beautification. The seeds of the tree are eaten by squirrels.