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Native Plant Guide

Information and Services for King County, Washington

Native plants for fall color

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Related plants:

vine mapleTreeadd plant
madrone; madronaTreeadd plant
red-osier dogwoodShrubadd plant
tall Oregon grapeShrubadd plant
red elderberryShrubadd plant
spiraea; hardhackShrubadd plant
snowberryShrubadd plant
highbush cranberry; mooseberryShrubadd plant
kinnikinnik; bearberryGroundcoveradd plant
goat's beardGroundcoveradd plant

Vine maple
Vine maple
Green, yellow, orange and red
What single plant can equal vine maple for fall color? The higher the elevation, the colder the weather, the deeper the colors of the vine maple (Acer circinatum) in autumn. What's really fun is that you can often find green, yellow, orange and red leaves on the same tree. It is most striking planted in a bed of dark salal or Oregon grape.

The Goldens Rule
Native hardhack (spirea douglasii) produces sprays of golden fall foliage with stiff, almost black seed heads holding firmly above. Goat's beard (Aruncus dioecius) also has golden, fall foliage with dangling tobacco-black seed heads for contrast. If autumn comes quick and cold, red elderberry (Sambucus racemosa) can also give a show of golden foliage.

For quiet drama, try the golden autumn leaves and white berries of snowberry over a bed of dark, evergreen low Oregon grape.

I Love Red
Another outstanding fall item is highbush cranberry (Viburnum edule) which turns a dark, frosty red in the fall but sports bright cherry red berries until the cedar waxwings find them! Bright red berries also decorate kinnikinnik (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) late into winter.

Bark if You Love Fall Color
For colored bark, it is hard to beat Pacific madrone. In late summer, early fall, the bark turns red then maroon, then mahogany/black until it starts to peel in mid winter, revealing new apple green bark below. There is no more interesting bark in the world.

Red osier dogwood also sports bright red bark turning more maroon in mid winter. The best color effect is to plant them in dense thickets.