It may seem oxymoronic to say that Florida actually has fall foliage displays, but, it’s true. As a native Floridian, I’ve always grown up hearing about the beautiful displays of yellow, orange, purple, and red that proliferate throughout the Northeast during the months of September, October, and November.
And, while it is true that we in the Sunshine State aren’t really known for our fantastic displays of fall foliage cresting over mountainous hillsides, we do have a brand of fall foliage here in Florida that is nothing to sneeze at – even if you do have allergies.
What to Expect from a Florida Autumn
So, what’s a fall in Florida really like?
Well, let’s put it this way – when most states up North begin seeing the first hints of fall color in their leaves come mid to late September, we’re still dealing with afternoon temperatures that reach through the 80s and flirt with 90. In fact, we don’t really start getting morning lows under 70 degrees on a regular basis until early to mid October.
And, since cool, crisp evenings are necessary to help trigger the onset of leaf color change, the science behind fall color in Florida doesn’t even really kick into gear until the leaves up North have already peaked.
So, early to mid November is when the leaves in Florida begin their fall color display, whatever it may be. Some years are better than others when it comes to fall foliage in Florida. For example, 2010 saw several colder-than-average days, which in turn ushered in a far more vivid-than-usual fall color show in the Sunshine State. However, 2011 was a more typical year for fall foliage in Florida, at least for the most part.
A typical display of fall foliage in Florida includes scant hues of yellows, oranges, and reds, with some occasional purple. Of course, in the Sunshine State, palms and firs proliferate, which are evergreen trees that dominate much of the landscape, so fall color is much more sporadic here than, say, New Hampshire, or the Smoky Mountains, where there are far more deciduous trees.
Which Trees in Florida Lend the Best Foliage Color?
If you’re trying to figure out which trees in Florida produce the best fall color, here’s a look:
• Red maple
• Sweet gum
• Florida maple
• Flowering dogwood
• Sorrel tree
There are many great places throughout Central and Northern Florida to see fall foliage; Southern Florida picks up a little hint of color in the autumn, but the color is far more muted there than in the northern half of the state.
Best Places for Viewing Fall Color in Florida
So, where can you go to see Florida fall foliage?
I love the drive along I-75 from Tampa north to Lake City; this drive takes you through Florida’s hillier region and features a multitude of deciduous stands, all which feature extraordinary color, at least by Florida’s standards.
Another fantastic route for fall foliage drives in Florida is throughout the I-10 corridor; I’ve seen some really deep hues of classic red, orange, yellow, and purple in the extreme northern edge of the state. However, you still must look carefully, for the fall coloration occurs mainly in blotches. Remember, much of the woodland throughout the state is pine, which is an evergreen.
There are many ways you can take in the Sunshine State’s color. You could go canoeing in Florida during the autumn and see the colorful stands of trees along the banks of a river. You could hike on a trail. You could even go driving along some rural back roads! If you’re ever in the Florida panhandle region around early November, check out Torreya State Park, a 12,000-acre preserve with incredible views of the Apalachicola River. One of the highly popular Florida state parks, this is by far one of the best places in the Sunshine State to view fall foliage, and the 150-foot bluffs overlooking the banks of the river will remind you that Florida is far more diverse in topography than just rolling sand dunes along the Gulf coast.