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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
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Monday - December 10, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Native trees with yellow fall leaves
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Hello, I want to plant a medium sized tree in my back yard that has yellow foliage in the fall. I've seen Yellow (in the fall) trees in my part of town (south Austin around West William Cannon)that appear to be some type of oak tree. They appear to be wild trees because they are near a brand new subdivision. Before the area was recently developed it was all forested. These trees must have been there before the development. Any idea what kind of tree I've noticed in my neighborhood and what else can you recommend?

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants thinks the most likely native tree with yellow leaves that you might have seen is Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (western soapberry), a medium-sized tree. They have been rather spectacular this fall. Mr. SP is not aware of any oaks native to the Austin area with yellow fall leaves.

Other native possibilities with yellow fall foliage are:

Carya illinoinensis (pecan), large tree, fall color

Juglans nigra (black walnut), large tree, fall color

Juglans microcarpa (little walnut), medium tree

Fraxinus pennsylvanica (green ash), medium to large tree, fall color

Ulmus crassifolia (cedar elm), medium tree, fall color

Prunus serotina var. eximia (black cherry), small to medium tree, fall color

Gleditsia triacanthos (honeylocust), medium to large tree, fall color

Hamamelis virginiana (American witchhazel), small tree, fall color

If you think the trees you saw were something different, send us a photo and we will do our best to identify them. Please read the instructions for submitting photos under "Plant Identification" on the Ask Mr. Smarty Plants page.

 

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