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How to identify trees with dark red leaves

Updated February 21, 2017

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. 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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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.

  7. Tip

    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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Things You'll Need

  • Camera

About the Author

Kelly Shetsky

Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.

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