10 Beautiful Plants to Look for on a Fall Foliage Walk

by Andrew Gapinski, Manager of Horticulture
October 19, 2016

Fall Foliage in the Leventritt Garden 10/18/2016

10 Beautiful Plants to Look for on a Fall Foliage Walk

Leaf-peeping is a time-honored tradition in New England for visitors and residents alike. But you don’t need to leave the city to enjoy nature’s handiwork. Take a stroll through the Arnold Arboretum landscape to check out our tops picks for autumn color!

1. Cultivar of red maple (Acer rubrum ‘Schlesingeri’; 3256*A) located directly across Meadow Road from the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center. Read more about this maple, discovered by Founding Director Charles Sprague Sargent growing at a neighbor’s Brookline estate in the 1880s, in the pages of Arnoldia.

Acer 'Schlesingeri' 3256-A

2. Hybrid witch-hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’; 396-69*A) located near the Hunnewell Visitor Center. Read about this Arnold Arboretum introduction in the pages of Silva.

H. x intermedia 'Arnold Promise' 396-69-A

3. Sugar maples (Acer saccharum; non-accessioned) growing in the North Woods bordering the M. Victor and Frances Leventritt Shrub & Vine Garden. Find out more about our nationally-recognized Maple Collection. (Photo Credit: Jordan Wood)

sugar maple

4. Lilac cultivar (Syringa oblata ssp. dilatata ‘Cheyenne’; 278-79*A) growing in the Lilac Collection on Bussey Hill. Though lilacs do not typically display good fall color, this cultivar is a notable exception. Read more about our national collection of lilacs.

S. Oblata ssp. Dilatata 'Cheyenne' 278-79-A

5. Golden larch (Pseudolarix ambilis; 534-61*B) is a deciduous conifer that turns golden yellow before defoliating; dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) is another example, with foliage that turns bronze in fall. The tree pictured here is located in the Conifer Collection along Hemlock Hill Road. (Photo Credit: Jordan Wood)

Golden Larch

6. Freeman maple (Acer x freemanii; 456-94*C) is a hybrid of the red maple (Acer rubrum) and silver maple (Acer saccharinum), offering outstanding red-orange fall color. This specimen grows not far from the Maple Collection on Meadow Road near Faxon Pond.


7. Chinese parrotia (Parrotia subaequalis; 304-2004*A) displays excellent red autumn foliage. This specimen grows in the Explorers Garden, where you can see many other plants collected on Arboretum plant expeditions in Asia. Read more about Chinese parrotia in the pages of Arnoldia.

Parrotia subaequalis 304-2004-A

8. Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum; 510-38*D) is a native plant highly prized for its crimson red fall foliage. Flowers give way to 5-parted dry capsules that ripen to silver-gray in September and persist, contrasting nicely with the fall foliage and providing interest even after leaf-drop. This specimen is located in the Conifer Collection. (Photo Credit: Jordan Wood)


9. Persian parrotia (Parrotia persica; 633-79*A), also known as Persian ironwood, may display variable shades of yellow, orange, red, and purple in fall. This specimen resides in the Hickory Collection.


10. Fan-shaped leaves of the maidenhair tree (Ginkgo biloba; 1114-89*A) turn a bright yellow in fall. See this specimen growing on the back side of Peters Hill. Learn more about this living fossil and the Arboretum’s collecting interest in the tree in the pages of Harvard Magazine. (Photo Credit: Jordan Wood)

Ginkgo biloba

2 thoughts on “10 Beautiful Plants to Look for on a Fall Foliage Walk

  1. I recognize that the main focus of this article was to point out beautiful examples of fall foliage at the Arboretum.

    As you know, though, many of the examples provided are “specimen” trees and/or species/cultivars not often encountered or available elsewhere.

    So allow me to offer a list of native species that I feel are underappreciated for their fall foliage:
    – Sassafras
    – Sumac (i.e., all species, including Staghorn, Smooth, Shining, and even Poison Sumac)
    – Tupelo/Black Gum
    – Hobblebush
    – Virginia creeper

  2. In this context, I’d like to nominate Viburnum acerifolium. The colors are spectacular, and often at peak in mid-November, when most everything else in the woods is nothing but bare twigs. Time to go visit my favorite haunts in Middlesex Fells and the Blue Hills!

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