How to identify trees with dark red leaves

Written by kelly shetsky
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How to identify trees with dark red leaves
Study the shape, size and stem-placement to identify dark red leaves. (red leaf image by WojtekZ from

Deciduous tree leaves turn red in autumn because the parent tree doesn't produce enough chlorophyll to keep them green. This condition causes pigments called anthocyanins to change the colour of the leaves from green to autumn foliage colours. The shade of red varies, depending on the type of tree. Dark red leaves range from burgundy to shades that border on purple. But they all have one thing in common -- they add striking beauty and interest to the autumn landscape. Adding trees that turn dark red to your yard will give you a beautiful showpiece in the autumn. Study the leaves' characteristics to determine what kind of tree drops which leaves.

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  1. 1

    Look for the leaves of a red leaf plum tree. The small, scalloped-edged leaves are pinkish-red in the spring and turn to a purplish-red colour in autumn. Another distinguishing feature of the tree is its pale pink or white blooms in the spring.

    How to identify trees with dark red leaves
    Red-leafed plum trees have pinkish-red leaves that turn purplish-red in autumn. (red leaf on the branch image by Dmitry Goygel-Sokol from
  2. 2

    You can identify the red-leafed Japanese maple by its sharp, pointy leaves with seven lobes on the tips. The Acer palmatum atropurpureum is a midsized ornamental shade tree. The foliage turns from a dark burgundy in springtime to crimson in autumn.

    How to identify trees with dark red leaves
    The leaves of the Japanese maple turn from dark red to crimson in autumn. (Japanese maple image by Horticulture from
  3. 3

    Pair sharp-toothed red leaves up with crabapples. They are likely from a Wisley Crab cultivar of crabapple tree. The foliage turns from yellow-green to red in autumn. The tree also has rough, scaly bark.

    How to identify trees with dark red leaves
    Crabapple trees turn from yellow-green to red in autumn. (crabapples image by catbird 338 from
  4. 4

    Match triangle-shaped leaves with a red maple (also called swamp maple, water maple or scarlet maple). This distinctive tree reaches heights of 27 m (90 feet), and has long, wide leaves, measuring 5 to 10 cm (2 inches to 4 inches) in both directions.

    How to identify trees with dark red leaves
    Red maple trees grow from the East Coast to Minnesota. (red maple image by Stanislav Komogorov from
  5. 5

    Identify an Eastern white oak by its purple-red leaves. This tree is also known as fork-leaf oak or ridge white oak. Its leaves measure 10 to 25 cm (4 inches to 10 inches) in length, are thin and somewhat rectangular in shape.

    How to identify trees with dark red leaves
    Oak leaves' distinctive shape make them easy to identify. (oak-tree autumn leaves image by Galyna Andrushko from
  6. 6

    Spot a black gum tree or black tupelo if the leaves turn from a glossy green to a bright red in autumn. The tree also grows distinctive bluish-black fruit and blooms with green flowers in spring.

Tips and warnings

  • Take a picture of the leaf to show an expert. Zoom in on the features like veins, edges and stem. Bring the photo to someone with the local cooperative extension or university office. You can also look for guidance at a tree nursery.

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