Beginning and End

San Ramon/Dublin (12/1/21) Salil Bhatt

California’s autumn begins and ends with two very similar trees … Quaking aspen and Frémont cottonwood.

While color spotting along Alamo Creek between San Ramon and Dublin, Salil Bhatt was at first mistaken when he identified Frémont cottonwood as being Quaking aspen, but after checking references realized his error.

They each have heart-shaped leaves and are different types of poplars, but they grow in different ranges.

Quaking aspen, Populus tremuloides, grow between 3,000 and 10,000′ in elevation. Whereas, Frémont cottonwood, Populus fremontii, are seen only up to 6,500′.

So, while aspen begin the peak, cottonwood end it.

  • Sunol Regional Wilderness (196′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

San Ramon Valley

San Ramon (11/22/21) Salil Bhatt

Danville is the neighbor who hangs his holiday lights early in the month. San Ramon waits until Thanksgiving Day.

Salil Bhatt took a Thanksgiving Day hike through the Sunol Regional Wilderness and found decorations still hanging from many of the wilderness’ native trees.

Most of the color is found in East Bay drainages and canyons where western sycamore, valley and blue oak, bigleaf maple, white

alder, creek dogwood and black walnut reside. Of these, Salil noted , only the sycamore, cottonwood and a few maple remain decorated.

Whereas in nearby San Ramon a riot of pink, scarlet and gold decorates the town, as exotic trees (principally red maple) and native cottonwood haven’t yet gotten the word that autumn decorations are being taken down elsewhere throughout the East Bay.
  • San Ramon Valley (486′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

San Ramon Sunrise

San Ramon (11/7/21) Anish Sidhan

San Ramon is one of the Bay Area cities with boulevards of color, found also in its sunrise and brilliance following a storm, as captured by Anish Sidhan on a mobile phone.

San Ramon (11/7/21) Anish Sidhan

San Ramon (11/7/21) Anish Sidhan

San Ramon (11/7/21) Anish Sidhan

San Ramon (11/7/21) Anish Sidhan

San Ramon (11/7/21) Anish Sidhan







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


Retro Sunnyvale

Ginkgo biloba, Sunnyvale (11/4/21) Lucas Yan

These photographs have a retro feel to them, and no wonder. Lucas Yan shot them on Fuji 400H and Portra 400 film. Even the retro Chevy truck seen below is pre-digital.

Chinese pistache, Sunnyvale (11/4/21) Lucas Yan

Ginkgo biloba, Sunnyvale (11/4/21) Lucas Yan

Retro Chevrolet, Ginkgo biloba, Sunnyvale (11/4/21) Lucas Yan









Lucas reports that most of the street trees in Sunnyvale (Ginkgo biloba and Chinese pistache) are patchy.

  • Sunnyvale (125′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)


Spotting in the Rain

When it starts raining what does Vishal Mishra do? He goes out color spotting.

Spent Bigleaf maple, Stevens Creek Canyon (10/24/21) Vishal Mishra

Vishal spent Sunday outdoors, when many of us chose to be indoors and came away with these images of wet, though Near Peak bigleaf maple along Stevens Creek Canyon in the Bay Area.

Stevens Creek Canyon (10/24/21) Vishal Mishra
  • Stevens Creek Canyon (554’) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now.

Don’t Leave Home

Stevens Canyon Rd., Cupertino (11/13/20) Vishal Mishra

The San Jose Mercury News explains how to see fall color without straying far from home, referencing CaliforniaFallColor.com as a guide to seeing fall color nearby. To read their analysis, CLICK HERE.


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!