Thursday June 20, 2013
Oregon's Fall Colors Rich and VibrantSalem-News.com
Oregon has a number of places to enjoy the colors of fall.
(SALEM, Ore.) - Unlike New England and other regions with influxes of tourists coming to see the leaves turn, Oregon's fall foliage is not as well known. We Oregonians know better, though, and many of us will venture out to hear leaves crunch under our feet and take in the beauty of fall colors with our cameras.
Oregon's rural and urban forests are taking on an amazing transformation right now. Whether we're hiking along a trail, driving through Oregon's back roads or cruising along its major highways, leaves of big leaf maple, dogwood, red alder, vine maple and yes - even poison oak - all catch our eye with their brilliant colors and hues.
While we can enjoy the beauty of fall colors in our native forests, it's the trees in our cities - our urban forests – that are usually home to more of the types of deciduous trees we associate with fall colors. But where are some good places to take in the sights of the season?
A scenic drive is often a good way for the whole family to get out and observe fall colors. Take a camera, picnic basket and your raincoat. Hey, this is Oregon, after all. Consider Aufderheide Memorial Drive in Lane County, or in northern Oregon, try a drive along the historic Columbia River Highway. Vine maple is already putting on a show at some of the higher elevations of the Cascades.
And while driving is fun, getting out for a hike in one of the state's numerous arboretums is another way to enjoy fall colors, and, get some exercise at the same time. As far as places to go, there are few limits.
Thousands of plants in more than 20 specialty gardens, plus water features, wetlands, a conifer garden, and the 400-year-old Signature Oak are all good reasons to put Silverton's Oregon Garden on your list of stops. Oregon Garden also features the only house in Oregon designed by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The gift shop located in the visitor's center offers something for everyone, and garden enthusiasts can browse in the greenhouse wing for plants, seeds, garden tools and books about horticulture. Call 503-874-8100 for information and directions.
In the Portland area, try Hoyt Arboretum to experience a 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. The Arboretum's collections are planted in taxonomic families and are grown from seeds collected in the wild, and specimens within each collection are labeled so that visitors can find individual trees. The visitor center features palms, yuccas and evergreen oaks. Located just two miles from downtown Portland, Hoyt Arboretum is a great place to take kids. Call 503.228.8733 for more information.
Eugene / Springfield
A 209-acre "living tree museum" is one way to describe Lane County's Mt Pisgah Arboretum, located south of Eugene and east of I-5, bordering the coast fork of the Willamette River. Enjoy riverside trails, quiet paths through coniferous forests, open meadows, a water garden teeming with life, and open savannas of Oregon White Oak. Never been there? Mt Pisgah's annual "Mushroom Festival" October 28 might be a fun time to experience a wide variety of fun activities and enjoy fall colors, as well. Call 541.747.3817 for information.
Cool nights, dry days make for best colors
This time of year often generates questions from adults and children alike; questions such as "Why do leaves change color, anyway?" Urban Forester Paul Ries with the Oregon Department of Forestry has answers.
"The leaves of deciduous trees change color each fall due to a combination of environmental factors," says Ries. "During the summer months, a leaf is green because of 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. Cool nights combined with dry, bright sunny days make for the best colors.
For more information about trees, tree care, and fall colors:
About fall color:
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