Autumn in Shreveport-Bossier
By Allen Marsalis
As I drive through Shreveport and Bossier this time of year, I feel like it is all lit up. I’m not talking about strings of Christmas lights. Nonetheless, everywhere I go I see lawns and landscapes that make me smile, like a child looking left then right, then left again gawking at holiday displays while riding down the road.
This is that same time of year when Shreveport-Bossier brightens with Christmas lights, many of our trees and shrubs light up in a gaudy display all of their own. Rich colors such as bright yellow, orange, and deep red complement our yards, roadsides, and highways. Fall in Shreveport-Bossier is indeed a spectacle in many residential and commercial landscapes; even downtown, amid a sea of concrete, brick, and asphalt.
Enjoy Autumn in Shreveport-Bossier!
As a child, autumn was never my favorite season. I recall many autumns in Shreveport that were cold, wet, and gray, not to mention that school started back in fall. After a hot barefoot summer full of fishing and swimming, having to bundle up and knuckle up for school was ‘a real drag’ for an active boy. As I grew older, I started to enjoy the cool fall air, and its relief from the ‘dog days of summer’ (…not to mention the financial savings on watering the yard less as winter approaches.) Beyond all that, it’s the fall display of colors that awakened me to the joy of autumn!
How Lucky We All Are to be Here!
There are only a few large areas on earth where this annual display of fall color occurs. In the Northern Hemisphere, the colored leaves are seen only in the Northeastern US and Canada, England, Western Europe, China, and parts of Japan. Only three small areas in the Southern Hemisphere show the bright autumn leaves; portions of Australia, New Zealand, and the southern parts of Africa. I really do feel lucky to be living here in Shreveport-Bossier in a zone with autumn color.
The Autumn Show in Shreveport-Bossier
The stars in the autumn show include gum trees, oaks, beeches, birches, elms, maples, sycamores, crape myrtles, pears, and many other supporting actors that morph in color before shedding their leaves for another season. I like to think that it’s Mother Nature’s way of ‘going out with a bang’…very Mardi-Gras-ish!
Many of these species of trees and shrubs simply grow wild in nature’s wilderness. This obviously makes up the bulk of the huge fall displays in our woodlands; however man has been selecting, breeding, and cultivating trees for their fall color for centuries. Some trees growing today were first propagated over 300 years ago. These are commonly known as “named cultivars” and are found in both home and commercial landscapes.
A “named cultivar” is a plant that has been chosen and given a unique name because it has desirable characteristics (decorative or useful) that distinguish it from other similar plants of the same species. Names like “Autumn Blaze”, “Fall Gold”, or “Fire Glow” help to describe what that desired characteristic might be.
Numerous maple cultivars have been selected for particular characteristics and can be propagated only by grafting. Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple) alone has over 1,000 cultivars on record, most selected in Japan, and many of them lost or not in cultivation after the war.
What Causes the Colors of Autumn?
Naturally occurring pigments cause the colors. As days become shorter and nights cooler in autumn, the production of the green chlorophyll in the leaves slows. Pigments responsible for brilliant yellow colors are then exposed. As the leaves become older, pigments accumulate in the leaves of some species, giving bronze tones. In other species, such as dogwood and sweetgum, pigments are produced causing colors ranging from red through purple. Intermediate colors, such as orange tones, may occur when leaves contain a mixture of two or more types of pigments.
So Plant a Fall Tree in Shreveport-Bossier!
Planting a tree with fall color is an investment in the beautification of our community, which literally grows each year. What better gift to give, than a gift of beauty for all to share!
Fortunately, thousands of homeowners and land developers feel the same way. Planting trees increases property values for a very good reason: curb appeal. A well landscaped property sells for much more than a bare landscape. Also, a nice looking shade tree near the west side of your home, will help save on energy costs in the hot summer months in the South. So, there is a practical side to all this autumn joy. Regardless of your motivation, planting an autumn tree in your yard is almost certain to reward you, and others, for many years to come.
So, go out and enjoy the sights of autumn across Shreveport-Bossier. It’s your way of attending Mother Nature’s final curtain call of color, before the bare limbs of winter arrive.