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Oct-07-2010 18:54printcomments

Now is a Great Time for Fall Color in Oregon

Fall color along a street in Salem Oregon
Oregon Dept. of Forestry

(SALEM, Ore.) - Whether you're a nature lover, photographer, or just like getting your exercise in the great outdoors, right now, as the days shorten and nights grow cooler, Oregon's rural and urban forests are starting out on an amazing transformation. This is a great time to take in the beauty of Oregon's fall colors.

Whether hiking along a trail, driving through Oregon's back roads or taking time out with the kids to enjoy a favorite city park, trees such as big leaf maple, red alder and dogwood all catch our eye with their brilliant hues and colors.

Vine maple is another attractive native plant, turning shades of red, orange and yellow, and is common along park and forest trails. Even poison oak is attractive this time of year, and this makes it easier to spot along forest paths and trails.

Cool nights, dry days make for best colors This time of year often prompts both kids and adults alike to wonder, "Why do leaves change color, anyway?" A series of dry days with cool nighttime temperatures is ideal to creating beautiful fall color, so each season is a bit unique from the next.

"The leaves of deciduous trees change color each fall due to a combination of environmental factors," says 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." 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, says Ries.

And, although abundant fall rain and wind can shorten the fall color period, Oregon usually has a long fall color viewing period.

Good places to see fall color?
Great fall color can often be found close to home - in our city parks, on college campuses, and at our arboretums. If you're in the neighborhood, plan a visit to one of these destinations and enjoy the changing seasons.

Portland
In the Portland area, try Hoyt Arboretum www.hoytarboretum.org 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. Located just two miles from downtown Portland, Hoyt Arboretum is a great place to take kids. The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area www.fs.fed.us/r6/columbia/, northeast of Portland, is another great place to take in the beauty of the season's colors.

Silverton
In Silverton, the Oregon Garden www.oregongarden.org is a showcase for thousands of plants in more than 20 specialty gardens. Ash, maples, and ginkgo are all ablaze with color at the Oregon Garden right now.

Eugene / Springfield
In the Eugene-Springfield area, take a hike at Lane County's Mount Pisgah Arboretum - a 209-acre "living tree museum" bordering the coast fork of the Willamette River, located east of I-5 and just south of Eugene. If you've never been there before, Mt Pisgah's annual "Mushroom Festival" on Sunday, October 31st, may be just the time to visit.

Eugene's University of Oregon www.uoregon.edu campus offers a chance to enjoy fall color in an attractive, more urban setting.

Corvallis
Oregon State University's oregonstate.edu campus in Corvallis also features fall beauty around every corner right now.

Ashland
Ashland's 93-acre Lithia Park www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=257 is a wonderful place to experience fall color splendor. Located within walking distance of downtown Ashland, Lithia Park Woodland Trail is part of a 100-acre National Historic Site. The one-mile walking trail takes you past flora and fauna in a beautiful wooded setting.

Thinking about planting a tree this fall? While the spring is always a good time to plant trees, the fall season is also conducive to tree planting. When planting a new tree, make sure the roots are covered, taking care not to plant your tree too deeply. Instead, set it slightly above the level of the surrounding soil to allow for settling and increased soil drainage.

Also, don't fertilize your tree after planting - wait until early spring to do this. Do add a few inches of mulch around the base of the tree.

Thinking about adding some color to your property? For fall color in small places, consider paperbark maple for its brilliant, shiny scarlet leaves. For small to medium areas, take a look at Persian Parrotia (Parrotia persica) which can grow tall - but slowly - and has purple, yellow, orange, and sometimes even red leaves on the same tree at the same time. For large spaces and yards, Scarlet oak makes a great addition to the landscape.

Help a neighbor in need
While everyone enjoys fall color, many people do NOT enjoy the fall leaf drop. If there are seniors or others in your neighborhood that cannot rake up their leaves, consider offering to rake them up for them, or organize a leaf raking party to help out others. In these challenging times, it's important to show you care.




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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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