When days grow shorter, temperatures drop, and the chlorophyll in leaves diminishes, it’s time to commune with nature. Beginning in early October, crimson reds that fade to rust and yellows that turn to gold cascade down the mountainsides. And the cooler and sunnier the weather, the brighter the color. Here’s a quick lesson in leaves to help you distinguish a silverbell from a sassafras.
1. Sugar Maple: Recognizable from the Canadian flag, five palmate lobes resemble a hand and turn deep red, orange, and yellow.
carolina silverbell: Fine saw-toothed edges and sharply pointed leaves change from dark green to yellow.
2. Sweet Birch: Smelling of wintergreen when crushed, this jagged leaf displays bright yellow come fall.
3. Dogwood: Our state tree is showy in the spring and equally so in autumn, when its wavy-edged leaves turn scarlet.
4. Sassafras: Three distinct lobes are a sure way to spot this smooth leaf, which changes to yellow, orange, or red.
5. Sourwood: These trees are abundant in the Great Smokies. Look for slender, saw-toothed leaves in bright red.