Published on 12/10/97

New Red Maple to Add More Fall Color in Georgia

Georgia homeowners can soon add a bit more of a blaze to the fall color that sweeps through the state every year. A University of Georgia scientist says a new red maple variety will offer vibrant fall color, even in south Georgia. 

A new red maple variety called "Somerset" will turn up the heat for fall color in yards all over Georgia. 

"Somerset is a cross between October Glory, which does well down here, and Autumn Flame," said John Ruter, a horticulturist at the Tifton, Ga., campus of the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.  

"This tree gives us a deeper, I'd say more of a purplish fall color almost magenta as opposed to the more intense red usually seen in an October Glory," Ruter said. 

 He also likes the unusual silvery leaf backs in Somerset. When the wind blows and the silvery-back leaves flutter around, it's an attractive effect, he said. 

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NEW RED MAPLE IS TURNING UP THE HEAT in Georgia landscapes, said John Ruter, in photo, a horticulturist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "'Somerset' will be a rich deep purple that will be great in yards all over the state," Ruter said. He expects Somerset to be available in nurseries in 1999. (Photo courtesy the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.) 

  Ruter has tested this new tree all over the state. He said it grows well, resists disease and has
good fall color everywhere he's tried it.

Most of the 55 tree varieties available at nurseries come from Tennessee or farther north. Many of
these varieties may not be well-suited to Georgia's heat and humidity.

"There are trees out there," he said. "It's just a matter of picking the ones that are right for
Georgia, particularly south Georgia."

The National Arboretum released Somerset in 1996, so Ruter said it may still be hard to find. "A
good-sized tree will take at least three years to produce, so they'll be on the market shortly," he

Choosing a tree variety well-suited to your area can be a life-or-death decision for the tree. Ill-
adapted varieties are susceptible to diseases, including leaf spot, tar spot and stem cancers, and
grow slowly if they survive.

"The growth rate can be almost doubled by selecting a local tree," Ruter said.

Your county extension office has more information about selecting, planting and taking care of
trees in your landscape.