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Danville’s Urban Forest

Downtown Danville (11/9/19) Ryan Boyd

Danville loves its trees. The East Bay town’s symbol is its 350-year-old Danville Oak.

Each year in November, the Town gathers on Diablo Road at the base of the tree to celebrate the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony. The ceremony is a festive evening that includes a visit from Father Christmas and the Snow Angel escorted by local high school bands.

Through the years, the Danville oak has provided support for signs announcing a special birthday or anniversary for a Town citizen.

The Danville Oak isn’t the only tree celebrated. The entire village of Danville is forested with landmark trees that for the next two weeks – as Ryan Boyd’s photos show – will provide peak color.

Danville’s annual tree lighting ceremony occurs on Friday, Nov. 29.

  • Danville (358′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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Freeman’s Maple on Fire

Freeman’s maple, LA County Arboretum (11/8./19) Frank McDonough

Freeman’s maple, Acer fremanii, is on fire at the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, reports Frank McDonough.

Known as Jeffersred (cultivar) or Autumn Blaze (trade name), this fast-growing hybrid maple was crossed between red maple, Acer rubrum (midwest), and silver maple, Acer saccharinum (Eastern).

It’s a popular choice in urban forests across California due to its dense crown, attractive shape and red-orange autumn leaves.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia (482′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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Ripe as an Apple

Bargain apples, Boa Vista, Apple Hill (11/8/19) John Poimiroo

Apple Hill is as ripe for fall color as its apples are for picking.

A visit to Camino in El Dorado County was stuffed full of tasty images, as delicious as one of their apple pies or wines.

Boeger Winery, Apple Hill, Camino (11/8/19) John Poimiroo
Boeger Winery, Apple Hill, Camino (11/8/19) John Poimiroo
  • Apple Hill, Camino ( ) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
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Classic Camping

Classic Shasta Trailer, Lake Hemet, (11/8/19) Chance Gordon

An Indian Summer is extending the camping and fall color seasons in the San Jacinto Mountains where, at Lake Hemet, the days have been warm, the nights cool, and classic trailers even cooler.

Jeff Brown reports from Lake Hemet Campgrounds that wildlife viewing (bald eagles), fishing (rainbow trout) and fall color spotting (cottonwood, black oak) are at their peak in mid November.

  • Lake Hemet – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Napa’s Vintage

Clear blue skies and vintage autumn color are being seen throughout the Napa Valley, making it Peak of the Week.

Gone are the hazy days delivered by October’s Kincade Fire, as wine country has been transformed back into a beautiful drive, bike ride or stroll.

Charles Hooker of Napa was out for a bike ride today and passed by the boulevard of Gingko trees leading to the Far Niente Winery in Oakville, sending back these camera phone snaps of that gorgeous road.

Thanks for sharing, Charles, it gives me one more reason to go wine tasting and return to the beauty of the Napa Valley.

  • Napa Valley (20′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Dried Grapes

California wild grape, Vitis californica, were at peak a year ago this week. So, as I passed through Cameron Park, I stopped, expecting to find them full of color.

They were, but not as I’d have preferred to see them.

So, I continued east on US 50, the Lincoln Highway (America’s first transcontinental highway) to Placerville, the El Dorado county seat.

As I climbed the west slope of the Sierra toward Placerville, clumps of orange black oak and golden Fremont cottonwood glowed from surrounding woods.

Placerville is at peak with the oaks particularly good in the midday sun.

  • Placerville (1,867′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • California Wild Grape, Cameron Park (1,198′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
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Lake Arrowhead – Not? Hot!

Rabbitbrush and black oak, Lake Arrowhead (11/5/19) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead is defying expectations. By now, it was supposed to be not. Instead, it’s still hot.

Lake Arrowhead (11/5/19) Alena Nicholas

Black oak are still carrying deep orange color in the San Bernardino Mountains surrounding Lake Arrowhead and Lake Gregory, as seen in these snaps sent in by Alena Nicholas.

  • Lake Arrowhead (5,174′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • Lake Gregory (4,554′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
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Goin’ to Jackson

Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest (11/5/19) Lance Pifer

Johnny Cash and June Carter would surely be “talkin’ ’bout Jackson,” ’cause the fire there’s not gone out. Black oak at Jackson Lake in the Angeles National Forest are aflame with color.

Lance Pifer visited Jackson Lake this past weekend, to find the Wrightwood/Valyermo areas displaying bright yellow and deep orange leaves.

Lance went for a run through the color along a Jackson Lake trail and enjoyed the color near Mountain High ski area near Wrightwood along CA-2. 

Indian summer weather is providing a short-sleeved extension to warm days and late autumn color in and around the lake, Wrightwood and Valyermo. And, it’s not just the weather that’s hotter’n a pepper sprout. So is the fall color. Lance figures it varies from 50 to 80% turned. Considering the late date, we’re classifying it as Peak and recommend to GO NOW!

As, snow will soon blanket the San Gabriel Mountains, and then, big-talkin’ man, you’re gonna snowball Jackson, kinda like the song says.

  • Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains (6,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Chico’s Chinese Color

Chico Seed Orchard (11/3/19) Robert Kermen

Growing throughout Chico in the Northern Sacramento Valley are hundreds of Chinese Pistache trees, pistachia chenensis, and their nut variety, pistachia vera.

That has happened due to the efforts of the Mendocino National Forest’s Genetic Resource Center, commonly known as the Chico Seed Orchard, where new plants from all over the world are observed as to how they will fare in this climate.

The result of all that experimentation has been to introduce farm products such as kiwis, almonds, cherries and pistachios to California agriculture.

It also has made Chico one of the most colorful urban forests in California.

Chinese pistache, Chico (11/3/19) Robert Kermen

The Chinese pistache is one of the most appreciated landscape trees because of its fluorescent fall color, its summer shade, hardiness and deep rooting, which means they don’t raise sidewalks like many other ornamental trees.

Chinese pistache are now at all stages of color throughout Chico, reports Chico area color spotter Robert Kermen. Though, he adds that this year is different – a common theme experienced not just in California, but nationwide – with deciduous plants showing fall color early, late and inconsistently.

In some areas, this has resulted in longer displays (e.g., Bishop Creek). In other areas, much abbreviated ones (e.g., June Lake Loop). That Chico’s Chinese Color now varies from Just Starting to Peak, indicates this could be a long-lasting show for Chico.

Currently, Chico’s urban forest, overall, is transitioning from Patchy to Near Peak with vibrant color appearing throughout the city’s downtown and along The Esplanade, a boulevard that is canopied with landmark trees (Chinese pistache, red maple, dogwood, Western Sycamore, various oaks and London plane trees).

A visit to Chico in autumn is a delight, particularly with stops to tour the Sierra Nevada Brewery, to dine in its excellent restaurant or any of Chico’s other first-rate restaurants, to drop into one of Chico’s exceptional art galleries or visit Orient and Flume Art Glass or to tour the Bidwell Mansion, home of one of California’s most respected pioneers.

Following a visit to Chico, head north seven miles on CA-99 to visit the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina where an 800-year-old Cistercian gothic monastic chapter house (a true architectural masterpiece) has been rebuilt to serve as the abbey’s church. Wine tasting is offered on weekends at the abbey winery.

  • Chico (197′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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At Last, LA

Tupelo tree, Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens (11/2/19) Frank McDonough

When Frank McDonough of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens reports, we’re in the home stretch.

Fall Color in Arcadia is Just Starting, but early November combines late blooms and early change, as seen in Frank’s photographs.

It’s also a reminder that arboretums and botanical gardens throughout California are looking good.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia (530′) – Just Starting (10-50%)