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LA’s First Peak

Black tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica, LA County Arboretum and Gardens, Arcadia (10/23/20) Frank McDonough

Los Angeles County’s first reported peak comes from the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Gardens in Arcadia where black tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica) are wearing deep orange-red leaves.

Black tupelo are found in one of the less-visited areas of the arboretum and are among the first to turn, there. McDonough notes that the area where the tupelo resides is compact, partially shaded and has plenty of water as it is near a perennial lake. McDonough reports that the lake serves to cool other nearby plants, as well.

Frank McDonough adds, “Now that weather has cooled down, what will be the next tree specie to turn?”

OK, geocachers, this specimen is found at: GPS: 34.142780°N 118.056434°W

  • LA County Arboretum and Gardens, Arcadia – Just Starting (0-10%)
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Walnut Banquet

Eastern Fox Squirrel (exotic) (10/17/20) Peter Asco

Southern California color spotter Peter Asco noted that “September’s heatwave put a halt to the color shift already in progress and – to the delight of resident squirrels – accelerated the maturing of the California Black Walnuts.”

He adds that “With the present cool-down, these showy residents (the walnut trees) of our Southern Traverse mountain ranges, are starting to turn color again and are at 10%.

For an entertaining outing, Western Grey Squirrels are the acrobats of California tree squirrels. Eastern Fox Squirrels (orange highlights), seen above, are an exotic that is threatening the native grey squirrels.

  • Black Walnuts, Santa Monica Mountains – Patchy (10-50%)
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Backyard Beauty

Pomegranate, Long Beach (9/25/20) Steve Shinn

Quarantined by the Covid-19 pandemic and noxious wildfire smoke, Steve Shinn found beauty in his Long Beach backyard.

Autumn is the season of harvest and often overlooked are fruiting trees, like persimmon, apples and pomegranates which brighten farm trails and urban gardens.

Northern Mockingbird and Hachiya persimmon (9/25/20) Steve Shinn

Many of the fruit trees attract birds, which adds to the autumn show.

Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) are beginning to color up, across the state. I was at Jenkinson Lake at Sly Park (US 50) yesterday and found them splashed with hints of ruby, vermillion and gold. They are a long-lasting show, particularly when their leaves fall upon wet concrete. As Steve notes, “they make a memorable image.”

  • Long Beach (52′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
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Christmas Ornaments

Virginia Creeper, La Canada-Flintridge (12/25/19) Julie Kirby

Ornamented with blue berries, this Virginia Creeper provides Christmas cheer to the Southern California community of La Cañada-Flintridge.

  • La Cañada-Flintridge (1,188′) – Past Peak, You Missed it!
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Night and Day

Moonlight Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough

During this festive season, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is beautiful both night and day.

Nightly until Jan. 12, during its Moonlight Forest event, the LA County Arboretum is illuminated with colorful lanterns while sunlit days still hang heavy with the last of LA County’s autumn color.

Here’s some of the beauty to be enjoyed. Click to enlarge images.

LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
Moonlight Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
Sunlit Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Behold San Gabriel

Early December is when the San Gabriel Valley is said to peak each year. Appropriate, considering that – scripture records – St. Gabriel foretold the reason for the Christmas season.

As predicted, it’s peaking now with ornamental trees heralding heavy loads of yellow, chartreuse and orange-pink foliage in La Canada.

John Jackson sends these images taken along Viro Rd., which is lined with towering liquidambar, sycamore and Chinese pistache.

  • La Canada (970′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Liquidambar Brighten, Finally

So far this autumn, Liquidambar (Sweetgum) have been disappointingly flat. Photographs received, and those I’ve seen, have lacked the vibrant, firey colors normal for this colorful ornamental tree.

Color spotter Mohammed Hossain scores a First Report from Walnut-Rowland Heights and comes to the rescue, providing these mobile phone snaps he took on a walk in his neighborhood, West of Pomona.

Mohammed says recent storms with lots of rain and crisp, cool, clear following days have refreshed the trees, causing the colors to brighten. Perhaps that’s what’s been missing in an autumn that’s been unusually dry.

He continues that the San Gabriel Mountains are now dusted with snow, providing that Chamber of Commerce image that Rose Parade viewers have come to associate with Southern California in winter. Though, this is still autumn; winter does not begin until December 21.

It’s easy to imagine how Mohammed’s walk/jog, as he described, filled his “heart and soul” with the beauty of a late autumn day that was dressed with rainbows arcing above the dazzling colors.

  • Walnut-Rowland (571′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Tujunga Canyon Gets Big

Big Tujunga Canyon, Sunland-Tujunga (12/7/19) Ken Lock

Big Tujunga Canyon is getting big above Sunland-Tujunga, reports Ken Lock.

Big Tujunga Canyon, Sunland-Tujunga (12/7/19) Ken Lock

The canyon is coursed by Big Tujunga Creek, a major Los Angeles County stream which drops from the upper San Gabriel Mountains to Big Tujunga Dam/Reservoir. Below the dam, the creek winds through the scenic canyon pictured here, then spills out of the mountains at Sunland-Tujunga and disappears into a San Fernando Valley aquifer.

Along the stream, a diverse riparian forest of winter deciduous trees flourishes, with Fremont and black cottonwood, western sycamore, bigleaf maple, blue elderberry, box elder, white alder, Southern California and Northern California black walnut, and velvet ash providing the color.

That diversity has painted the creek’s edges with green, lime, yellow and occasional spots of vermillion.

Big Tujunga Canyon, Sunland-Tujunga (12/7/19) Ken Lock
  • Big Tujunga Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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Out of this World

Vasquez Rocks (12/5/19) Allison Hastings

Nicknamed “Kirk’s Rock” for the many times it appeared in early episodes of the television series Star Trek, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce (between Santa Clarita and Palmdale) is virtually out of this world when it comes to dramatic beauty and late fall color.

Allison Hastings scores a First Report for sending back photos of the hike she took with her dog there, today.

Most of the color comes from native Fremont cottonwood and western sycamore. Also in the area are bigleaf maple, black and blue elderberry, white alder, Southern California black walnut, chokecherry, California ash and various willows.

  • Vasquez Rocks, Agua Dulce – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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LA County Arboretum Near Peak

Gingko biloba, Herb Garden, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Native and exotic trees are near peak at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, dressing its grounds with red, orange, yellow and chartreuse.

Red oak, Quercus rubra, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Los Angeles County has a long peak, from mid November to mid December, though it is specific to a few national forest drainages and to urban forests with concentrated areas of deciduous non-native foliage.

American elm, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Arboretums and gardens are the best locations in LA County to see peak fall color right now, including the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge, the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino and the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdos Peninsula.

Two of these gardens add illuminated displays during the holidays. The LA County Arboretum in Arcadia hosts Moonlight Forest, a nighttime display of colorful lanterns (seen in some of these images). And, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge hosts the Enchanted Forest of Lights in which trees are flooded with dramatic, colorful lighting.

Click to enlarge photos.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!