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Best Connecticut Native Trees For Fall Foliage Color

Is there anything better than the fall foliage colors in Connecticut? If you love the autumn leaves, there’s no better place in the world. From the variety of colors to the crunch that the leaves make under your feet, it’s very apparent when fall has arrived.

If you want to bring some bright fall colors to your own yard, you might wonder which trees are best to plant in the Fairfield and New Haven area. Below, we recommend some that are native to Connecticut (so they are sure to grow well here), and a few that often live 100 years or more – so they’re not just beautiful now, they will provide beauty, shade, and benefits for generations to come!

Red Maple

fall color on red maple leaves

We’ll start with a tree you’ll probably recognize immediately – the red maple (scientific name Acer rubrum). You can spot a red maple from blocks away, as its leaves, often the first of the season to change, turn vivid shades of orange-yellow to bright red and burgundy as the weather starts to cool.

Red maples are also known as swamp maples, partly because they do well in moist areas. They will grow 40 to 70 feet tall, although some have grown to over 100 feet. Be sure that you plant a red maple where it will have plenty of room to grow (and don’t forget that the roots need room to spread out, too!).

This is a wonderful shade tree and is also tolerant enough of urban conditions to be used as a street tree. They’re easy to transplant and establish quickly, making red maples an excellent choice for fall planting.

Black Tupelo/Black Gum

black tupelo tree in full fall color

Next, we’d like to recommend the black tupelo or black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica), especially if you like to birdwatch from your house. A wide variety of birds (and other wildlife) love the blue fruit that the female version of this tree produces, and in the spring you’ll spot some white flowers.

The black tupelo tree’s shiny dark green leaves change to a vibrant yellow or orange, as well as beautiful shades or red and burgundy in the fall. During the winter months you’ll notice that most of the twigs or branches grow at a right angle to the larger branch from which it grows.

Here in Connecticut, a black tupelo can grow 30 to 50 feet tall, although some in the wild have grown over 100 feet tall and have lived over 500 years. This tree also likes moist, well-drained soils and does best in full sun. It can be difficult to transplant this tree once it is established, so be sure you’re planting it in a location that will work for its entire life.

White Oak

autumn leaf color on white oak

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention our state tree, the white oak (Quercus alba), but not just because of state loyalty. The white oak’s leaves turn a distinctive reddish-brown color in the fall. Unlike the red maple, it’s one of the later trees to change color, but the color lasts a while before the leaves fall.

If you know the history of Connecticut’s charter oak (it’s the reason why the white oak is our state tree), you know that the tree mentioned lived to be 1,000 years old. If well-cared-for, white oaks can reach 60 to 80 feet tall and are often just as wide or wider than they are tall. This is a slow-growing tree that doesn’t like to be disturbed once planted; choose the planting location carefully, taking into consideration any nearby landscaping or other trees.

Along with fall leaves, oaks produce acorns, so keep that in mind if you plan on planting a white oak near a driveway, patio or walkway, as it can drop a lot of acorns in a single season.

Shagbark Hickory

yellow fall leaves on shagbark hickory

With a name like shagbark hickory (Carya ovata), you know our next tree will be interesting. The name is appropriate, as long strips of bark peel up at the bottom and make the tree appear somewhat shaggy. In the fall, it produces bright golden or yellow foliage, as well as hickory seeds that squirrels love to bury (and eventually eat).

The shagbark hickory is a large, slow-growing tree, that can reach 70 to 80 feet tall. These trees can be planted closer to a house than many other types of trees; they’re strong, straight and stable, and the branches are less likely to break off. Shagbark hickories also can survive in partial shade, though they prefer full sun.

Shagbark hickory trees have been known to live 300 years or more if properly maintained, and the hickory nuts are a valuable food source for not only squirrels, but turkeys, deer, chipmunks, and more. Hickory wood is popular in furniture and floors, hickory nut oil has long been an important food source, and hickory firewood is highly sought after for barbequing.

Eastern Redbud

eastern redbud leaf

Redbud (Cercis canadensis) trees are often talked about in the early spring, when their brilliant reddish-pink blossoms are on display even before the heart-shaped leaves appear. But the yellow-green fall foliage can be just as showy and impressive, making this a great tree to add visual interest to your yard during multiple seasons.

A smaller tree, growing to only 20 to 30 feet tall and 25 to 35 feet wide, the eastern redbud can fit in smaller areas than the other trees mentioned here. It likes full sun but can tolerate shade from a building or taller tree, making it perfect for planting in naturalized settings (as an understory tree), as well as in small groups or even as a single specimen tree. However, it does need to be well-watered (it doesn’t like hot, dry conditions), so moist, well-drained soil is a must.

Plant Some Trees This Fall!

We hope that this list of native trees that provide fall color in Connecticut has inspired you to add some trees to your property, or perhaps to enjoy the trees that you already have.

If you have any questions about tree planting or tree care, contact us for an appointment with one of our arborists. Not only can we recommend and source the best tree for your property, we can also plant it for you!

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