Out With A Bang

University Dr, UC Berkeley (12/5/20) Vishal Mishra

Class is out, but not yet fall color at UC Berkeley where Vishal Mishra found it still popping along University Drive. He reports the Bay Area nearing the end of autumn color, though it’s going out with a bang.

In Vishal’s hometown of Mountain View, neighborhoods along W. Middlefield Rd near San Veron Park remained full of yellow and orange color, this past weekend.

  • Berkeley (171′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Mountain View – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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A Colorful Ending

American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus), UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/30/20) Sandy Steinman

Weather has been kind to fall color this autumn, allowing it to last and last and last, right to its colorful ending.

At the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Sandy Steinman found American smoketree (Continus obovatus) brilliantly toned in crimson, orange, green and yellow; American beautyberries robed in purple, and Japanese maple leaves as confections of red, magenta, orange, pink and yellow.

Similar vibrant display are appearing in Southern California where Kathy Jonokuchi found golden yellow gingko leaves and hot pink Honk Kong orchid at the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden.

Nuttall’s woodpecker, Conejo Valley Botanic Garden (11/28/20) Kathy Jonokuchi

Finally, Salil Bhatt made my day by submitting these images and scoring a First Report for the Sunol Regional Wilderness where valley oak and western sycamore have just crested peak.

Salil points out that the Sunol Regional Wilderness, in the mountains east of Silicon Valley, is one of a few areas where significant collections of winter deciduous native trees can be seen at peak in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Wilderness is east of Milpitas and south of Sunol on Calaveras Rd.

  • UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (171′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It!
  • Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, Thousand Oaks (886′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol (500′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It!


Gingko biloba trees are survivors. They survived the Permian–Triassic extinction event 250 million years ago, during which 90% of marine species and 70% of land species died, then flourished during the early Jurassic period, spreading worldwide.

The division of Ginkgophyta began declining during the Cretaceous geologic time period and by two million years ago, all that remained of native forests was limited to a small area of central China. Gingko biloba is now the only living species of Gingkophyta, all others being extinct.

Gingkos (also called Maidenhair) are a living fossil that provides beauty in landscaping and use in cooking and as a health supplement. Xingshen Qian enjoyed their beauty on a morning walk through Mountain View.

  • Mountain View (105′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Page Turner Peaks in Cupertino

Cupertino Library (11/28/20) Xingsheng Qian

A tree-lined green, south of the Cupertino Library, is a page-turner as good as any mystery novel inside the library.

The trees, as Xingsheng Qian notes, have the form of Chinese pistache but not the coloration. Hmm, what are they?

At this late date in autumn, Chinese pistache (pistacia chinensis) leaves would have turned bright pink, red, orange and yellow, not the golden-orange seen in Xingsheng’s photograph (above). Also, Chinese pistache might have already dropped their leaves, but these trees are at peak.

Wait a minute. Xingsheng included a second image and … Ah, it was not Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick. Those are Chinese pistache, after all. Oh, I’m sorry. Did I give the ending away?

Chinese pistache, Cupertino Library (11/28/20) Xingsheng Qian

Like many California cities, Cupertino has a tree planting program in which property owners may request a street tree. The city is encouraging the development of an urban forest by offering property owners the choice of 13 tree varieties, including several of our favorite street trees: Chinese pistache, Gingko biloba, London plane tree, Marina strawberry tree (evergreen but with colorful fruit in fall), Aristocrat and Chanticleer flowering pear, crepe myrtle, Chinese flame tree and autumn purple ash. Cupertino also has “themed streets” where specific varieties are planted for a more uniform and impressive display. As California cities discover the energy-saving value of urban forests, cities like Cupertino are becoming more beautiful and colorful in autumn.

  • Cupertino (236′) – 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.


Hot Pink in Sunnyvale

All of the San Francisco Bay Area is brightly painted with pink, scarlet, lemon and orange foliage, with families out riding bikes and celebrating mild autumn days. It’s sweatshirt weather in Sunnyvale and, Lucas Yan reports, the only thing that’s hot there are the electric colors along city streets.

  • Sunnyvale (125′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Epic, Dad!

San Ramon (11/23/20) Ryan Boyd

When Ryan Boyd and his son set out yesterday for a ride, Ryan didn’t know the autumn scenery in San Ramon would be epic. He didn’t need to. His son, as all 8 year olds do, would surely tell him.

  • San Ramon (486′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Berkeley Abstractions

Reflection, Japanese maple, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/23/20) Sandy Steinman

Sandy Steinman is a student of nature. His blog, Natural History Wanderings is not abstract. It is precise and studied. In it, he observes the natural world, as a man or woman of science would do.

So, when his photo of a maple being reflected in waters at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden arrived, I had a little fun with it. I flipped, saturated and cropped it, as a man or woman of arts would do.

I kinda like the result. It feels painterly, abstract and yet, you and I know that it’s really a photograph of something that’s concrete.

That is often the case in our natural history wanderings. There are abstractions within the concrete world of nature, and it is satisfying to find them.

Asian Section, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/23/20) Sandy Steinman
  • UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (732′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Get To A Vantage Point

Walnut Creek (11/21/20) Crys Black

“Nice color remains in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Lafayette, and Orinda,” Crys Black writes, “The peak has passed and the wind continues to pull down leaves but get to a vantage point and take a look across this beautiful valley. The towns are starting to set up for the holiday shopping season and the weather is cooperating to help feel a little more festive.”

Crys echos what we’ve seen and heard from across northern California, beautiful color is hanging on for Thanksgiving Day and though, “The leaves are browning and starting to drop … the vistas show beautiful swaths of color.”

So, get to a vantage point to see a landscape dripped with color.

  • Walnut Creek (131′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Berkeley, Blue and Gold?

Smoketree, N Berkeley (11/21/20) Sandy Steinman

Who says Berkeley’s colors are blue and gold? Not Sandy Steinman who found red orange, pink and yellow on a walk through the North Berkeley flatlands.

Japanese and Freeman’s maple, persimmon, flowering pear, gingko biloba, smoketree and Chinese pistache are providing exotic color to Berkeley’s streets.

  • Berkeley (171′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!