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Head outdoors and enjoy fall color in Oregon

News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Major Media Distribution
October 9, 2012
Contact: Cynthia Orlando, 503-945-7421
Paul Ries, 503-945-7391

Whether you're a nature lover, photographer, or just enjoy life in the great outdoors, right now – as the days shorten and nights grow cooler – is a great time to take in the beauty of Oregon's fall colors. Hiking along a trail, driving through Oregon's back roads or enjoying your favorite city park are all good opportunities to appreciate the leaves of red alder, dogwood, vine maple, and other trees as they catch our eye with their brilliant colors and hues.
Good places to experience fall color
Fortunately, during these times of resource conservation and high gas prices, you don't need to travel far to find places to enjoy fall color. Great fall color can often be found close to home, both in city parks or arboretums. If you're in the neighborhood, plan a visit to one of these destinations. 
  • Silverton
    In Silverton, the Oregon Garden is a showcase for thousands of plants in more than twenty specialty gardens, plus water features, wetlands, a conifer garden, and the 400 year-old Signature Oak. And, while enjoying the reds and yellows of a maple or dogwood, take a minute to check out the Oregon White Oak Savannah, where fire was recently introduced to enhance habitat and rid the area of invasives.
  • Corvallis
    Oregon State University's campus in Corvallis also features fall beauty around every corner this month.
  • Portland
    In the Portland area, try Hoyt Arboretum to check out its diverse collection of more than 8,000 trees and plants from around the world. This park-like setting includes some 187 acres with 21 trails covering 12 miles. Located just two miles from downtown Portland, it's a great place to take kids. The breathtaking Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, northeast of Portland, is also an excellent place to take in the beauty of the season's colors.
  • Eugene/Springfield
    If you live in the Eugene-Springfield area, take a walk through the University of Oregon campus where native and non-native trees alike will be showing off their fall color. Or, take a hike at Lane County's 209-acre Mount Pisgah Arboretum bordering the coast fork of the Willamette River; it’s located east of I-5 and just south of Eugene.  If you've never been there before, their annual "Mushroom Festival" on Sunday, October 28th, might be just the time to visit.
  • Ashland
    You say you live near Ashland? Ashland's 93-acre Lithia Park located near the downtown area is the perfect place to experience fall color splendor. The one-mile Woodland Trail, part of a 100-acre National Historic Site, offers much to see or photograph in a beautiful wooded setting.

Why leaves change color – and why things may look different this year
This time of year often prompts both kids and adults to ask: "why do leaves change color, anyway?"

 "The leaves of deciduous trees change color each fall due to a combination of environmental factors," explains Paul Ries, an urban forester with the Oregon Department of Forestry. "During summer months, a leaf is green because the tree is making chlorophyll through the process of photosynthesis." Ries says that as day length wanes in the fall and temperatures cool, photosynthesis begins to shut down, revealing "the natural color pigments of the leaves" - what we know as fall colors.
A series of dry days with cool nighttime temperatures is ideal to creating beautiful fall color, so each season is a bit unique from the next. And, although abundant fall rain and wind can shorten the fall color period, Oregon usually has a long fall color viewing period.
If you think things look different in your part of the state this year, there may be a good reason. Dry conditions this fall are resulting in less vibrant fall colors in some parts of the state. That’s because trees need rain to produce carbohydrates, or sugars; lack of moisture can cause leaves to turn brown, instead of the brighter oranges and reds. In some cases, this is exacerbated by trees which have had little or no deep watering through the summer months, and a good reminder about the importance of watering trees deeply when temperatures are warm.
Thinking about planting a tree this fall?
The autumn months - after leaf drop - is a great time to plant a new tree. Looking to plant something out of the ordinary? For fall color in small places, consider Paperbark maple for its brilliant, shiny scarlet leaves. For small to medium areas, take a look at Persian Parrotia which features purple, yellow, orange, and sometimes even red leaves on the same tree at the same time.  If you have a large yard or garden, Tulip tree or Scarlet oak make a great addition to the landscape.
When planting a new tree, make sure the roots are covered, but don't plant your tree too deeply; instead, set it slightly above the level of the surrounding soil to allow for settling and increased soil drainage. Also, don’t fertilize your tree after planting – wait until early spring to do this.  Do add a few inches of mulch around the base of your new tree.
Help a neighbor in need
While everybody loves fall color, many people do not enjoy the fall leaf drop. If there are seniors or others in your neighborhood needing a hand, get in touch and see if they can use some help raking leaves.
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