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Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spectacular fall color is very possible in north Texas


 
North Texas is not known for spectacular fall color, unlike New England and some areas near the Rockies. That’s not because there are no colorful trees here (there are several). It’s because the dominant trees exhibit little or no spectacular fall color, as you might expect from when almost all of north Texas is in what’s biologically-called a “Post Oak Savannah”

Simply put; the sheer number of Post Oak trees (and its relative Blackjack Oaks), overwhelm the trees that are showing nice fall color. Over the centuries this natural disparity has increased. Also, unspectacular trees as Live Oaks, Ashes and some imported, non-native trees have been widely planted.

I suggest, if you want really dramatic color, you plant a “mass” of the same tree species (a “mass” is at least half a dozen, planted in a grove). Not only is it more visually striking; it seems to attract more birds seeking protection within its branches.
·       The Soapberry is my personal favorite. The medium-sized tree with an unfortunate name turns a bright yellow/orange in the fall.
 
·       The Red Oak (also called shumard oak) turns into a reddish “torch” every fall (most of them, anyway)

·       Bald Cypress, by itself, can’t be called a spectacular tree. It’s an excellent background tree, however, since it displays a rust-red color all winner long .

·       Sweetgum is a dramatic tree.  The tall tree transforms into a bright red {sometimes purple) in the fall.

·       Bigtooth Maple is a small, nativge tree that’s hard to find in nurseries, but worth the hunt. It turns into a striking red each fall.

·       Cedar Elm is a fairly common native tree. Many of them (but not all) turn a yellowish about late October.

·       Sumac is a shrubby plant that’s best used when randomly interspersed among large, trees.

 
These are all native to Texas, but are usually overwhelmed visually by our unspectacular oaks. In the ‘silver linings department‘ however, and thanks to rampant land-clearing, we have an opportunity to create a patch of vivid color anywhere we could plant a tree. By far the best time of year to plant them is right now, so the roots can grow all during a Texas winter, becoming visually spectacular about this time next year, and for years after.

 

 

 

Starlings; fit to be pried

 

The European Starling, a non-native bird now living almost everywhere in North America. It has a jaw/beak unlike almost any other living thing. It is stronger when opening than when closing, Thus, it can pry open tiny cracks (like in tree bark) to get at hidden insects and such.

 

In the fall and winter it is speckled with tiny white spots.

 
 

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Native Plant Society of Texas, and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at Yost87@charter.net in Denton.