Fall colors are about to explode at Arb

October 2, 2000
  • umichnews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Save gas. Avoid being stuck in traffic breathing noxious fumes. Visit the University of Michigan’s Nichols Arboretum for a blast of autumn color.

“With our ample moisture in August and September and the recent cool nights and warm days, we can expect good fall color for many species,” says the Arb’s director Bob Grese. “In the next few weeks, we should start to see good fall color throughout the Arboretum.”

Some of the highlights in the Arb will be the red color of the sassafras trees (Sassafras albidum) found in the Heathdale or Appalachian Glen area and the red leaves of the Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) on the trail that leads to the field office.

The Arb’s collection of white ash trees (Fraxinus americana) near the Geddes entrance are known for their spectacular yellow foliage and are expected to meet that reputation again this season. The walnuts (Juglans nigra) are turning yellow now or are just dropping their leaves, but the large hulking nuts are still hanging on bare branches. One needs to be careful walking under these trees, Grese cautions, as the nuts continue to fall.

Adding to the colorful mosaic of the Arb are the oaks (mostly reds to bronze), the hickories (golden ochre), beeches (coppery colors) and the maples ranging from red to orange. Grese chooses as one of his favorites the large, old white oaks (Quercus alba) with their leaves of bright red and light gray bark.

Visitors are encouraged to note the witchhazel’s (Hamamelis virginiana) yellow strap-like flowers. These small understory trees are scattered throughout the Arb’s woodland areas, but are particularly common in the Heathdale or Apalachian Glen area.

Not to be outdone by their taller cousins, some of the shrubs in the Arb are also ready to show off their colors. Among the best are the colonies of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) found around the edges of the Dow Prairie. That area also has colonies of Hazelnut (Corylus americana) and Michigan rose (Rosa setigera), both of which have multi-colored leaves that range from yellow to orange to red. The gray dogwood shrubs will also be bright red.

The lucky early visitors to the Arb will be able to catch the last flowers of the many asters (smooth, sky blue, heath, New England, and white), goldenrod (showy, stiff, Canada, old field, bluestem, zig-zag), and sunflowers as well as the blue lobelia that call the prairie and woodland edges home. Even the prairie grasses are beginning to change to their autumn colors of ochre, red, and bronze.

Entrance to the Arb can be gained from Geddes Avenue or Washington Heights near the hospital. Trail maps are available at each entrance. The Arb is open sunrise to sunset every day. Admission is free. Visitors are reminded that bikes are prohibited, dogs must be leashed, and to collect only photos and memories.

[Map of the Arboretum]

Nichols ArboretumBob GreseMap of the Arboretum