Autumn Hues of Yellow and Gold


The yellows and golds of autumn bring brightness and warmth to the landscape.  Sitting beneath my ash trees in the fall, the air is awash with a golden glow as the trees appear to be lit from within.  It’s truly magical. Sometimes I think we’re so fixated on the reds of autumn we fail to appreciate the beauty of plants that develop yellow and gold hues.

Not to be outdone, elm, ginkgo, sumac and yellowwood (Cladrastis) boast some outstanding golds in autumn.  But don’t forget to cast your eye downward to the surprising bonus of gold hues in plants that are not trees. Ornamental grasses like prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis); perennials such as balloon flower (Platycodon) and bluestar (Amsonia); and the shrubs summersweet (Clethra) and beautyberry (Callicarpa) offer something besides good looks during the growing season—they have excellent golden foliage!

One of my favorites is the fall color combination of beautyberry (Callicarpa). Do I notice the clusters of tiny purple berries (think Mopar’s plum crazy) while the leaves are still green?  Not so much. But the plant is a show stopper when the leaves turn yellow.  Wow!


Kathleen Cue
Horticulture Educator at Nebraska Extension
Kathleen serves as the Horticulture Educator for Nebraska Extension in Dodge County. She educates people on making smart plant choices to reduce use of fertilizers and pesticides in their landscape which has a positive impact on air, water, soil and environmental quality, property values and people’s pocketbooks.

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