Perhaps the best place in the Midwest to experience the crescendo of fall color is the Morton Arboretum in Lisle.
Right now at the arboretum, the sumacs and white ashes are showing reds and purples, shagbark hickory is putting on a golden-yellow display, while hints of oranges and reds are beginning to show in the tops of some of the sugar maples.
In the arboretum’s 100-acre prairie, prairie grasses show russets, purples, and yellows with late asters blooming for added color.
“It’s the crisp, cool air, sunny days, and shorter day lengths that triggered the color change,” says the Arboretum’s Ed Hedborn, botanist and “Color Scout.”
By this weekend, the kings of fall color-the maples-will likely arrive with their striking golds, reds, and oranges. Also stealing the spotlight are ginkgos, with megawatt yellow leaves so bright, you might think the trees are plugged into an electrical outlet. Sweet gums usually bring a dark red or purple, while corktrees, black maples and larches round out the palette.
In addition to the explosion of color, the month of October also brings activities for both kids and adults to the arboretum:
- Free wine tasting offered by Bonterra organic vineyards; through October on weekends from 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
- The Fall Garden Marketplace offers an array of merchandise; through October on weekends.
- A Scarecrow Trail features nature-themed scarecrows designed by local Girl Scout troops; through October-8 a.m.-6 p.m. daily.
- A taffy apple bar; through October on weekends.
While at the arboretum, visitors can hike 16 miles of trails, bicycle nine miles of roads, or take a 50-minute, narrated tram tour. The arboretum also hosts a restaurant with a great view.
Admission to the arboretum is free for members; for nonmembers, admission is $9; children are $6.
I will be signing copies of the new edition of my book, 60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Chicago, at the Arboretum’s Fall Garden Marketplace on Saturday, October 18, 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
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