On Tuesday, a group of 30 gardeners visited Wildwood Farm to learn more about maples. They chose November to see fall color at its peak. Of the hundreds of maples, we highlighted 30 or so that have outstanding fall color. It was difficult to limit the list to 30. It seemed like someone was always scribbling the name of a maple that caught their eye on their handout.
Acer japonicum cultivars are known for their fall color – scarlet, orange, red, yellows all on one plant. Generally, the leaf outline is the distinguishing characteristic of japonicum cultivars. In contrast, Acer palmatum cultivars generally have one dominant color, like a red Osakazuki. A Baldsmith, which has green, pink, and red tones throughout the year will also turn to a uniform vibrant red. It truly is a collage of colors in the nursery and gardens this time of year.
The color change starts when the temperature drops below 46 F. At the point, the chlorophyll starts to shut down. This is the pigment that lends leaves their green color. Anthocyanin and Anthoxanthin are other pigments in the plant that color leaves. A combination of sunlight and temps below 46 F allow these purple reds and yellow colors to come to the fore. The show is fleeting because the plants need the chlorophyll for photosynthesis.
Enjoy the show while it lasts!