When we think of fall foliage, there are two plants that always come to mind: The burning bush (Eyonymous alatus compactus) and Bradford pear. Unfortunately, these once-venerated plants, although beautiful, are now becoming a problem in our native woodlands. They both have a bad tendency to naturalize, taking over large territories and choking out native species. There are a few native plants, however, that can put on just as good of a show and support a sustainable landscape at the same time.
Staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) typically grows as a shrub or small tree - multi-stemmed, forming a cluster. It has a very coarse stem, and it is best used toward the back of a perennial border - ideally with a number of shorter plants in front of it.
But no matter how you plant it, Staghorn sumac is always sure to please in the fall with its deep reds and burnt oranges. And when the bright foliage is gone, it produces striking fruit stalks that can be enjoyed through the winter.
Plus, both species have beautiful berries that will persist - especially the double file viburnum - into the early winter. Either species will be suited perfectly for use in hedges or as an anchor plant in your borders.
As a side note, there are a number of improved varieties, such as Brunswick, that fit into the DMV climate and landscape just as well as our native species.
While the trees typically have an irregular form, their fall color is outstanding. They are a great small tree for backyard planting and can be used in much the same manner as a flowering dogwood.
Take some time to plant these species in your home landscape and you’ll have beautiful fall foliage from native species for years to come!