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Learning Leaf Colors Unique to Tree Families

Autumn Leaf Color by Tree Genus and Species


Beartown Red Maple Leaf

Beartown Red Maple Leaf

Photo by Steve Nix, Licensed to About.com

Certain broadleaf trees are noted and can be uniquely identified by their brilliant fall leaf color. In some cases a tree's common name is derived from it's primary autumn leaf color. The most common leaf colors of fall are red, yellow and orange and some species can express several of these colors simultaneously.

A Companion Tree Leaf Photo Gallery

All leaves start out the summer as green. This is because of the presence of a group of green pigments known as chlorophyll. When these green pigments are abundant in the leaf's cells during the growing season, they mask out the color of any other pigments that may be present in the leaf.

But with autumn comes a destruction of chlorophyll. This demise of green pigments allows other masked colors to be expressed. Those unmasked fall colors quickly become markers for individual deciduous tree species.

So, let me introduce you to trees according to leaf color. I have prepared a list of tree species by their primary colors.

Trees With Red Leaf Color
Red is produced by warm, sunny fall days and cool fall nights. Leftover food in the leaf is transformed into red or anthocyanin pigments. These red pigments also color cranberries, red apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and plums.

Some Maples | Some Oaks (red, pin, scarlet and black) | Some Sweetgum | Dogwood | Black Tupelo | Sourwood | Persimmon | Some Sassafras |

Trees With Yellow and Orange Leaf Color
Chlorophyll is destroyed with the onset of autumnal conditions. This demise of green pigment unmasks the orange and yellow leaf colors, or carotenoid pigments. Deep orange is a combining of the red and yellow color making process. These yellow and orange pigments also color carrots, corn, canaries, and daffodils, as well as egg yolks, rutabagas, buttercups, and bananas.

Hickory | Ash | Some Maples | Yellow-poplar (tulip tree) | Some Oaks (white, chestnut, bear) | Some Sassafras | Some Sweetgum | Beech | Birch | Sycamore |

Related Video
How to Identify a Maple Tree

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