Weeks after fall colors have faded in mountains near Tucson, what might be called “urban autumn” is just getting underway around the city.

Cottonwood trees and other plants along rivers and washes are showing first hues of yellow and gold that could continue into December.

Trees of the Fremont cottonwood species, which are native to the Southwest, typically grow near rivers, washes and wetlands. They can reach heights of more than 100 feet and have heart-shaped leaves — turning gold in the fall.

Other trees — including velvet ash and sycamores — as well as some shrubs often start changing colors in late November.

Even some mesquite trees have leaves flashing yellow and orange colors at this time of year.

The changing of leaves along most Tucson-area watercourses, and in some parks, is just beginning. More will be visible in the coming weeks.

Some places to look for color then include:

  • The Rillito River near Craycroft Road
  • Tanque Verde Creek east of Craycroft Road
  • Sabino Canyon northeast of Tucson

Contact reporter Doug Kreutz at dkreutz@tucson.com or at


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