This past weekend, Oct. 26 – 27th, we spent the night in Nevada City (an historic quaint, Gold Rush town nestled in the foothills of the Sierras.) We had no idea that this was THE PLACE TO BE for fall color in Northern California. We had had an overnight in Tahoe the night before to enjoy quacking aspens in peak color. (See photo below.)
Anyway… we didn’t think we’d be taking a tree walk in Nevada City, but after chatting with friendly locals and getting info from Nevada City Chambers of Commerce’s website suggesting a self-guided, fall color tree walk, we were in!
Later on, a quick look online – I found this comment in the San Francisco Chronicle’s SF GATE:
For a taste of fall foliage New England style, visit Nevada City in the Sierra foothills. The town has a number of sugar maples and liquidamber trees throughout its easily walkable historic downtown area.
So here we go with some of the TREES of NEVADA CITY, CA…
Acer rubrum (Red Maple)
Native to North America. As you can see red fall color on species plants is variable. What isn’t variable about the ‘rubrum’ or red, is the red flowers which proceed the spring leaves.
Catalpa bignoniodes (Common Catalpa)
Here is a tree that works perfectly for bold effect. Distinguishing features include aromatic foliage, showy white flowers in May and June, showy hanging bean like fruits and reliable fall color, (YELLOW) even in mild climates! Catalpa trees are native to temperate parts of North America. These trees grow best in full sun to part shade. Very tolerant of heat, poor soils. Not a good choice for windy and seacoast conditions. Note: The fruit litter problem of this tree can be a nuisance where a neat appearance is desired. Garden size: 30′ tall x 20′ wide.
Liquidamber styracifolia (American Sweetgum)
This tree is also native to temperate regions of North America. It’s growth habit is pyramidal with an upright habit; growth rate is moderate. Fall color is very showy; and, in the SF Bay Area, Liquidambar is one of the few trees you can count on for reliable fall color. Cultivars with reliable fall color include: ‘Burgundy’ – (Deep purple-red), ‘Palo Alto’, (bright orange), and ‘Festival’ (yellow, orange and red mixture). Issues: The fruit littler can be an issue near paved areas or where a neat appearance is desired. Liquidambar trees are tolerant of poor soil and drought. Garden size: 40′ tall x 25′ wide.
Castanea dentata (American Chestnut)
No fall color with this one. But love seeing this chestnut tree!
Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)
Cornus florida and its many cultivars make excellent small scale trees for ground or container. They’re a nice choice in lightly shaded gardens bringing their assets, including: showy, profuse flower display and fall color. Keep in mind that these trees do appreciate cold weather (to set their bracts/flowers). Also, this is a slow growing tree. Garden size: 20′ tall x 15′ wide.
Tilia americana (American Linden)
Though not is fall color – massive and lovely! Known in the British Isles as lime trees, the American Linden is covered with small, yellow blossoms in July and is powerfully fragrant. Linden flower tea has a pleasing taste, and a history of medicinal use for relieving colds, coughs, fevers, and headaches. Lindens are found in many places in Nevada City, providing shade and perfuming the air.
Acer platanoides ‘Crimson King’ (Crimson King Maple)
Fraxinus oxycarpa ‘Raywood’ (Raywood Ash)
Diospyros kaki (Japanese persimmon)
Native to temperate regions of Asia this gorgeous Japanese persimmon tree is moderate to slow growing and bares yummy fruit. Best planted in full sun. Persimmon fruit matures fall to winter. There are a number of cultivars produced with different fruit characteristics. One of my favorites is ‘Fuyu.’ Garden size: 20′ tall x 20′ wide. USDA zones: 7 – 11.
If you’re reading this – living in the mild climate of the San Francisco Bay Area- you may be wondering why there’s so little fall color in our city, particularly tree-wise. In fact, even though most of the trees of Nevada City with USDA zone 8, could be planted in San Francisco, (though some aren’t ideal choices due to issues like: invasive roots, large size, water-needy), fall color would be unspectacularly brown. If you live in SF and want to grow a tree with reliable fall color the four I recommend are: Liquidamber (in post); Chinese Pistache – Pistacia chinensis (not in post); Ginkgo – Ginkgo biloba (not in post); Catalpa – Catalpa bignoniodes (in post).
How about you…Are you enjoying fall color where you live or travel? We’d love to see some photos and we’ll share them on FB!