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Head outdoors, enjoy Oregon's fall colors

Photo Credit: COURTESY PHOTO - A scene in Silverton reminds Oregonians why autumn is such a beautiful season in the state.Whether you’re a nature lover, photographer, or just love outdoor life, right now — as the days shorten and nights grow cooler — is a great time to take in the beauty of Oregon’s fall colors.

Hiking in a park, along a trail, taking a walk through your neighborhood or enjoying your favorite college campus are all good opportunities to appreciate the color of the leaves of red alder, dogwood, vine maple and other trees as they catch our eye with their brilliant hues.

Good places to experience

fall color

Fortunately, during these times of resource conservation and high gas prices, you don’t need to travel far to find places to enjoy fall color. Great fall color can often be found close to home, both in city parks or arboretums.

In the Portland area, try Hoyt Arboretum to check out its diverse collection of more than 8,000 trees and plants from around the world. This park-like setting includes some 187 acres with 21 trails covering 12 miles. Located just two miles from downtown Portland, it’s a great place to take kids. The breathtaking Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, northeast of Portland, is also an excellent place to take in the beauty of the season’s colors.

What causes leaves

to change color?

This time of year often prompts both kids and adults to ask: Why do leaves change color, anyway?

“The leaves of deciduous trees change color each fall due to a combination of environmental factors,” explains Paul Ries, an urban forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry. “During summer months, a leaf is green because the tree is making chlorophyll through the process of photosynthesis.” Ries says that as day length wanes in the fall and temperatures cool, photosynthesis begins to shut down, revealing “the natural color pigments of the leaves” — what we know as fall colors.

A series of dry days combined with cool nighttime temperatures is ideal for creating beautiful fall color, so each season is a bit unique from the next. And, although abundant fall rain and wind can shorten the fall color period, Oregon is lucky as it usually has a long fall color viewing period.

Thinking about planting

a tree this fall?

The autumn months — after leaf drop — is a great time to plant a new tree. Keeping in mind that red maple is over-planted in most cities, you might consider Paperbark maple for its brilliant, shiny scarlet leaves. For small to medium areas, take a look at Persian Parrotia, which features purple, yellow, orange and sometimes even red leaves on the same tree at the same time. If you have a large yard or garden, Tulip tree or Scarlet oak make a great addition to the landscape.

Fall is an excellent time to look at fall color in retail tree nurseries, so if you’re looking for a colorful tree to plant, try visiting your local nursery.

When planting a new tree, make sure roots are covered but don’t plant your tree too deeply; instead, set it slightly above the level of the surrounding soil to allow for settling and increased soil drainage. Do add a few inches of mulch around the base of your new tree, keeping a couple of inches of space between the mulch and the bark of the tree. Water deeply.

Help a neighbor in need

While everybody loves fall color, many people do not enjoy the fall leaf drop. If there are seniors or others in your neighborhood needing a hand, get in touch and see if they can use some help raking leaves.

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