Autumn Ambiance
Need help finding something?

Horticulture Stories


Stories from the park's horticulture team

Autumn Ambiance

By Stacie Martin

According to the Fall Foliage Prediction Map created by the National Forest Service, Tulsa should be attaining peak color this week! We are already seeing great color and are excited for more. Michael van Valkenburg & Associates, the landscape architecture firm who designed Gathering Place, designed the landscape to be stunning in all four seasons! Gathering Place has a wonderful display of shrubs, grasses, and trees that are all changing color.

To prepare for winter, nutrients found in the leaves are remobilized to the stems and trunk for the next growing season. Chlorophyll, the green pigment that is produced through photosynthesis, starts to degrade. As chlorophyll degrades, beta-carotene and flavonols are more visible. Beta-carotene reflects yellow and red light from the sun, creating a beautiful orange hue. Flavonols are present year round and contribute to the yellow hues. Additionally, anthocyanins increase production in autumn and provide a blue, purple, red, and brown color. Plants that produce anthocyanins do so for individual reasons including leaf protection and ecological benefits.

I see your anthocyanins! And beta-carotenes! The Dogwood trees the parking lot are red! The Maples range from red to orange! And the Little Bluestem grasses are a red-brown-copper!


Below is a large, lovely Ash tree! Located by the zipline, this tree species is actually endangered due to an invasive insect called the Emerald Ash Borer. It is a fall favorite, as it typically has every shade of fall foliage on one tree, including purple. We inspect and protect our Ash trees at Gathering Place so we can enjoy its majestic colors for years to come.

Pistache trees are planted in Sky Garden, along Riverside, and in Adventure Play. It has both yellow and red fall colors. This Pistache next to the towers almost blends in with the net. The Pistache is an adaptable tree, but does best planted in full sun. It is an Oklahoma Proven tree, which is a tree selection program coordinated by the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Oklahoma State.


Even shrubs have fall color! The Oakleaf Hydrangeas in Chapman Adventure Playground are turning crimson!

This fall scene below is at Slide Vale featuring a Weeping European Hornbean, Viburnums, Spicebush and Hydrangea- all showing different colors. The Weeping European Hornbeams were not originally picked for Gathering Place. However, on a trip to a nursery, one of the Landscape Architects fell in love with this group of unusual specimens. Their leaves are just starting to lose their green and turn yellow, and the unique weeping branch structure is something worth noticing!