Fall forest

Falling in love with the colours of Ontario’s southwest

“There is nothing permanent except change.”

— Heraclitus

As the blissful haze of summer fades, we confront the realities of the changing season: colder weather and back to school. Autumn brings change to our lives, and to our parks as well. Change can seem overwhelming, but southwestern Ontario is a shining example of the beauty of change.

Take a mindful hike this fall. Choose one colour to focus on, or allow yourself to be taken by all the colours that catch your eye as you walk through the beautiful Carolinian forest of the southwest. Appreciate the vibrant colour as a physical manifestation of change.

Fall forest

The fields and forest floor

Beautiful fall colours can be found everywhere in our forests. Start with the ground plants and work your way up to the canopy. Poison Ivy is one of the first plants to turn and show its fall colours.

Poison Ivy plant with white berries turning red

With variations of yellow and red, this native Ontario species provides warm tones to the forest floor, and its white berries serve as a food source for overwintering animals.

Goldenrod flowers with a cocoon

As the days grow shorter in the fall, the sunny blooms of Goldenrod produce seeds loved by birds. The stiff perch on the plant makes for a built-in resting place for migratory birds feeding on its seeds. Like yellow fireworks, this native species shines in the fall.

Fall is also the best season for asters! Azure and Fringe Blue Aster boast shades of pale blue in autumn. Other Asters like Large-leaved and Heart-leaved Aster appear to be a pale blue, white or violet colour. New England Aster provides stunning natural purple to southwest landscapes.

purple aster

This vibrant wildflower is attractive to migrating Monarch Butterflies and many species of native bumblebees, providing a vital source of nectar late in the season.

The forest canopy

Moving your eye higher up into the forest canopy, you’ll be greeted by more warm hues. The unique leaves of the Sassafras trees turn brilliant shades of orange, scarlet, and yellow in the fall and dark blue berries on bright red stems hang from female Sassafras branches.

Red sassafras leaves

Red Maples are one of the most colourful and variable trees in the southwest, ranging anywhere from pale yellow to bright orange to deep maroon.

Bridge in the fall

The Tulip Tree – unique in Ontario to the southwest – turns a spectacular shade of gold in autumn. Not unlike its vibrant orange blooms in the spring, these Carolinian giants provide a gilt accent to the forest.

Autumn birds

Fall brings beautiful migratory birds through the southwest as well. Enjoy a challenge in deciphering the unique subtleties of fall warblers. Greenish streaks on the Bay-Breasted and immature Blackpoll Warblers distinguish them from the yellowish streaks of the Palm and Cape-May.

autumn forest-scape

The status quo can be comforting and change might seem intimidating. But with a mindful hike in southwestern Ontario, you can tune in to the beauty of change.

Looking for a southwestern Ontario park that you can visit this autumn? Check out our fall colours map!