In the Warm California Sun

Crepe myrtle, Lagostroemia, Bauer Lawn, LA County Arboretum (12/2/20) Frank McDonough

To paraphrase The Ramones, even though the days are short and the nights are long, we’re still out there having fun in the warm California sun.

That’s especially true in Arcadia where cool nights and clear late autumn skies are letting that warm Southern California sun intensify fall color at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden.

There, crepe myrtle and Chinese pistache continue to carry deep red and orange color. A canyon of glowing pencil cactus challenges anyone to pass through it cautiously and red aloe have deepened to their vermillion color and are pushing sepals up in advance of the New Year when hummingbirds will be attracted to their pagoda-like blooms.

Red aloe, Aloe cameronii, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens (12/2/20) Frank McDonough
  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Seasonal Gifts of Color

Chinaberry, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (12/1/20) Frank McDonough

Backlit and dripping with color, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Arcadia is at its peak. Frank McDonough shares these seasonal gifts of color.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia (171′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Orange Friday

It’s Orange Friday, the day following Thanksgiving Day when California overcomes tryptophan-induced lethargy and goes outdoors to enjoy fall color before it’s gone.

On the San Francisco Peninsula, tall gingko biloba are littering city streets with gold.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, American beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) provide holiday ornamentation at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and fallen leaves are now strewn across Berkeley.

Down south, the place for peak color is the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Arcadia. Orange-toned crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia) now dominate and more color is revealed each day to mid December.

Along the American River, cyclists, skaters and walkers on the 32-mile American River Parkway are enjoying one of the most colorful autumns in memory.

In the Gold Country, “Maple Lane,” a boulevard of maples leading to the Empire Cottage at Empire Mine SHP is at peak and will remain good through this weekend. So, spend your Orange Friday weekend being filled with the beauty of this lovely and historic place.

Maple Lane, Empire Mine SHP (11/25/20) Steve Arita

Or at old Monterey where gingko biloba, Asian maple and sycamore dress city streets with gold, yellow and chartreuse-colored leaves.

But, don’t plan to go swimming in Davis where backyard pools are covered with leaves.

Backyard pool, Davis (11/26/20) Philip Reedy

Unless you’re a duck. This pintail drake just enjoyed his morning bath at the Colusa NWR.

Morning bath, Pintail duck drake, Colusa NWR (11/25/20) Philip Reedy

Today is just another Orange Friday. It’s a day best spent outdoors enjoying fleeting moments of California Fall Color.


An Overnight Sensation

Crepe myrtle (l), evergreen pear (r), LA County Arboretum and Garden (11/20/20) Frank McDonough

Los Angeles County typically limits the term “an overnight sensation” to its artists, not generally to its foliage. However, that’s how Frank McDonough is describing the overnight change at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens which transformed from Patchy to Near Peak. Sensational!

Frank was so overwhelmed by the transformation, that he sent over 70 images. OK, that’s a bit over the top, even for a Hollywood publicist.

Crepe myrtle, Bauer Lawn, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/20/20) Frank McDonough
  • Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden (482′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now.

LA Partners With Google To Determine Where Trees Should Be Planted

The City of Los Angeles is partnering with Google to determine where trees are needed most to cool its hottest neighborhoods. City residents can apply for up to six free trees to plant in their yards. Here’s more from the Mayor of Los Angeles on this program:



Freeman maple (background), LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens (11/17/20) Frank McDonough

When the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens pop, they POP!

Although the Arboretum’s Frank McDonough rates the color as just reaching Near Peak, it sure looks like it’s peaking. He says only half the winter deciduous foliage is showing peak color, with dramatic Gingko biloba to turn color in coming weeks.

This means, the LA County Arboretum (and other botanic gardens in the southland) have a way to go before autumn ends. It is a definite go-to place on Orange Friday (the day following Thanksgiving Day), if you’re looking for something inspiring to do that involves being outside.

A row of deep red “Autumn Blaze” Freeman maple (Acer ‘Jeffersred’) are competing with flowering plants in the garden.

Photographers position themselves around Baldwin Lake to photograph the orange-red reflections of wild grape climbing palm trees.

Wild grape, Baldwin Lake, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/17/20) Frank McDonough

Everywhere you look, right now, striking Autumn blaze maple beg for attention. The showy red foliage of these Freeman cultivars show their descent from red and silver maple, propagation that occurs both in the nursery and the wild.

American elm (forground), Autumn Blaze maple, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (11/17/20) Frank McDonough
  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (482′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now.

Forest Pansies, Fragrant Sumac and Freeman’s Maple Get Goin’

Freeman’s maple, Crescent Garden, LA County Arboretum (11/3/20) Frank McDonough

You gotta get goin’ eventually. Now that we’re in November, the showy trees and plants of the LA County Arboretum and Gardens have begun to strut.

Arboretum color spotter Frank McDonough admits it’s still in the low range, but November and December are the LA Arboretum’s time to shine.

Demonstrating the color to come, Freeman’s maple stands as bright red as directional signs near it in the Crescent Garden.

Fragrant Sumac, Meyberg Falls,LA County Arboretum (11/3/20) Frank McDonough

The garden’s fragrant sumac, Rhus aromatica, near Meyberg Falls are so colorful, they could be mistaken for poison oak, McDonough writes, “though if you were to fall into this imposing shrub, the most that could happen would be sneezing – its pollen is mildly allergenic.

A favorite of mine, due to its heart-shaped leaves and resemblance to redbud is the forest pansy, Cercis canadensis, which is now a confetti of lemon and lime colors in the Meadowbrook section.

Forest Pansy, Meadowbrook Section, LA County Arboretum (11/3/20) Frank McDonough

All this color can be found at an arboretum or botanical garden near you. Because of its clement, Mediterranean climate, California has the most diverse and colorful arboretums in the nation, from Alta Vista in Vista to the Young Botanic Garden in Kerman.

Where else can you see so broad a selection of peaking deciduous plants in one compact place? And, they’re often minutes from home. And, as Frank’s photographs portray, they are willing subjects for an artist’s imagination in autumn.

  • LA County Arboretum and Garden, Arcadia (482′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
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Late Color

Bigleaf maple, Angeles NF (11/2/20) Ken Lock

The Angeles National Forest has often shown Peak fall color by mid October. Considering that the forest was closed (due to wildfire smoke) for such an extended time this autumn, perhaps it’s best for color spotters that the color is now appearing late.

Ken Lock found this bigleaf maple peaking in the forest on Monday, one of a few with fall color, he writes.

  • Angeles National Forest (4,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)

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%)