Mid-November Notable Native Trees and Shrubs

November’s sky is chill and drear,

November’s leaf is red and sear.

Sir Walter Scott



Mid-November Notable Native Trees and Shrubs

The November landscape has a sepia coloring, reminiscent of the rotogravure section of the old Chicago Tribune.

The leaves of the Bur Oak (Quercus macrocarpa) fell in October, but those of the White Oak (Q. alba) will hang on a while longer.

There are, however, surprising jolts of brilliant color:

A few crimson leaves of Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium) remain,

while the foliage of Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera) is still overall scarlet.

As I mentioned last year, anthocyanin, the pigment that gives apples, cranberries, cardinals, and plums their red or red-violet coloring , varies from year to year, depending upon the temperature and amount of sunshine.  This year was a banner year for the reds, scarlets, and wines, and this is the most brilliant I have seen the Illinois Rose in years.

I acquired this shrub at a Wild Ones Plant Exchange,  labeled as Wild Gooseberry (Ribes missouriense), although I’m not sure that it is.  I’ve never seen it flower or fruit, but it’s worth having just for this glorious late season color–in fact, I’d like a couple more.  Anyone know what species this is?

The stems have a  single  nodal spine and bristle-like prickles.


Another Ribes with yellow autumn leaves volunteered next to my front porch several years ago and I don’t know what species it is, either.  It’s the first shrub to leaf out in early spring.  Greenish-white, bell-like  flowers open early spring, but I have never recorded the date nor have I ever noticed the berries.  In my own defense, both of these shrubs are in out-of-way places and seemingly nondescript until fall.

The bristle-like prickles are much denser on these stems.

And here is one more volunteer, gorgeous in its autumn dress–I know it only as Wild Cherry, but I don’t know which species.  I have at least half a dozen of them, which I cut down several times during the year.  The birds always plant them next to the sidewalk, so I can’t let them grow there.

The large maple-like leaves of Purple-flowered Raspberry (Rubus odoratus) turn to gold in November.


The spidery, yellow flowers of Witch Hazel (Hamemelis virginiana) show off magnificently against its bare brown branches.

November Decorations

Smooth Hydrangea (Hydrangea aborescens ‘Annabelle’) blossoms have dried to buff and brown and add another texture in our landscape.

Like all legumes, the Redbud (Cercis canadensis) forms abundant pea pods, which hang from its branches beginning in July and persisting through most of the winter.

The attractive, chunky, chestnut-colored pods of Kentucky Coffee Tree (Gymnocladus dioica) decorate its branches throughout the fall and winter.

Wine-stained leaves and white berries with pink pedicels adorn this Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa) at Burnidge Forest Preserve.

Silky Rye (Elymus villosus), new foliage of Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), and scarlet-leaved Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum) carpet the savanna floor.


It’s not too late to plant trees and shrubs.  Nurseries are generally open through the end of November.  I like to extend Spring and Fall as far as I can in either direction;  all the above woody plants will give you color and interest through November and even into December.

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