Its that time of year again. Time for the going to all your favorite places to view fall color. Here in Northeast Kansas, we do not need to go far to find beautiful maples; we can go to any of our local towns. Indeed, Hiawatha, KS is known as the City of Beautiful Maples. But all over the Central Great Plains, the Midwest, and New England, there are many places to go and see fall color.
In the Northeastern U.S., you can go on special tours and bus trips, to see fall color, quaint churches, and covered bridges. Here, we get to see much of the same, but without the rolling Appalachian Mountains. Before moving to Northeast Kansas, fall color to me was cottonwoods, prairie grasses, and American plum bushes. While all; those are great, I really love the maples, oaks, and other trees I see each year out here.
The Maples of Northeast Kansas
While it is unknown who planted most of the maples of Northeast Kansas, it is known that they can be found in nearly every small and large town, as well as on older farmsteads. Even at my own house, there are trees of distinction. I have a both a gold and a red fall maple tree, both consistent in their autumnal garb. And they are reseeding into my landscape.
In nearby locations such as Mission Lake (Horton), Jackson Park (Atchison), and Indian Cave State Park (Shubert, NE), sugar maples are growing wild. While many of these are gold or yellow in the fall, some are red or orange. It is the red and orange ones that catch our attention the best. So much that Doug Grimm, founder of Grimm’s Gardens, has worked hard to introduce trees that have roots in our towns and landscapes.
One of these has fast become a standard of excellence, the Oregon Trail or Hiawatha maple. Originating from a contest in Hiawatha, to choose the best maple, the Oregon Trail has been propagated and produced for landscapes across the nation. Doug has tirelessly promoted this tree and many people can boast of having it in their landscape. Even I have one.
Another tree that also comes from the City of Beautiful Maples is the new FiresideTM sugar maple, boasting red-orange fall color, tatter resistant leaves, and excellent durability, having not been broken up by the 2007 ice storm.
Other Maples of Excellence
While it is true that I am a bit biased towards maple trees that Grimm’s Gardens has developed and produced, I also like a wide variety of maples. I am a tree lover after all, and diversity in the landscape is one of my biggest promotions. When choosing a tree, you should try to look for your favorite attributes, as well as right plant right place. Characteristics most love are fall color, spring color (blooms), and fast growing. While sugar maples are not as fast as hybrid maples, they are certainly fast enough for most people.
Maples of Note
- Kansas City GoldTM – Developed by Doug Grimm, this cultivar of Acer truncatum (Shantung Maple) boasts gold fall color on a smaller tree. It is perfect for tough landscapes and does well in urban areas.
- Paperbark Maple – what I love about these this tree is its versatility. I have 3 in my landscape. They thrive in part shade in Northeast Kansas. Also, they have red-orange fall color, cinnamon-brown peeling bark, and a small habit. They grow 25 feet tall and wide.
- Rugged Ridge Miyabe Maple (Acer miyabei) – this large shade tree has corky, ridged bark, similar to a bur oak. It grows 50 feet tall by 40 feet wide and has excellent yellow fall color.
- Burgundy Belle Red maple (Acer rubrum) – another introduction from Northeast Kansas, Wathena to be exact. It tolerates high pH soils, and has excellent red fall color. It grows 40 feet tall and wide.
- Matador Hybrid Maple (Acer x freemanii) – similar to the widely-planted Autumn Blaze, but with better cold hardiness and branch structure. It grows quickly, reaching 60 feet tall by 40 feet wide.
Besides these, there are a number of other maples of varying types, which are more popular in other areas of the country. Here in the Central Great Plains, these are the ones I like the best for our landscapes. You may notice that I did not include Japanese maples. This is because there are so many cultivars of Japanese maple available, and many of those may or may not be hardy in our area. 2 that are safe to plant in Zones 5 to 8 are ‘Orangeola’ and ‘Bloodgood’.
Enjoying Autumn Color
While it is all well and good to plan and plant maples to enhance your landscape or your town, it is also important to enjoy the color. One of the things I love to do is to go hiking. There are several places within the Central Great Plains Region to hike and see fall color. Or you can take your family for a drive on any of the following scenic routes to see fall color.
- Bluff Road between Thurman and Hamburg Iowa
- Highway 7 between White Cloud and Atchison, Kansas
- Highway 73 between Atchison and Leavenworth Kansas
- Loess Bluffs National Wildlife Refuge, Mound City, MO
- Indian Cave State Park, Shubert, NE
- Waubonsie State Park, North of Hamburg, IA
- Jackson Park, Atchison, KS
- Lewis and Clark Center, Nebraska City, NE
- Arbor Lodge State Historical Park, Nebraska City, NE
- Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha, NE
- Kaw River State Park, Topeka, KS
- Perry Lake, Ozawkie, KS
Fall color is everywhere in the Central Great Plains, whether you are in town, or hiking one of our great trails or lakes. And maples are the stars of the show, garbed in coats of red, orange, and gold. Add some to your landscape today!