Orlando, Florida is known for its warm tropical climate and theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios. With an average high temperature of 83°F in October, Orlando doesn’t experience the same autumn foliage seen in northern states. However, some leaf color change does occur if you know where to look.
Why leaves change color
Leaves change color in the fall due to chemical processes that take place as daylight hours shorten. The key factors are:
- Shorter days and less sunlight cause the leaves to stop producing chlorophyll, the green pigment that helps leaves absorb sunlight to produce food for the tree.
- As the green fades, other leaf pigments that were present all along start to show through, like carotenoids (yellows and oranges) and anthocyanins (reds and purples).
- A layer of cells starts to form at the point where the stem connects to the leaf stalk, slowly sealing off the leaf’s supply of nutrients. This causes the leaves to die and fall off the tree.
These changes are triggered by cooler night temperatures and fewer daylight hours. In warmer climates like Orlando, the day length change is less dramatic, so the leaf color transformations are less pronounced.
Native trees that show color
While oak, maple, and other northern trees don’t change much in Orlando’s climate, some native tree species do reveal modest fall colors:
- Red maple – Bright red, orange, or yellow leaves
- Sweetgum – Purplish-red leaves
- Blackgum – Yellow, orange, or red leaves
- Florida maple – Yellow, orange, red or purple leaves
- Dogwood – Red or purple leaves
These native trees produce anthocyanins in response to Florida’s slightly cooler fall nights. Trees growing in full sun show the brightest colors.
When to see autumn colors
Leaf color in Orlando can start as early as late October and last into December. The timing depends on weather conditions each year. Cooler nighttime temperatures in the 50s Fahrenheit spur the best color change.
Here is the typical timeframe:
- Late October: Early leaf color change begins
- Mid November: Peak autumn leaf colors
- Late November to mid December: Fading of the fall colors
The colors disappear quickly once leaves start to drop. November is usually the best month to spot Orlando’s fall foliage.
Where to see the fall colors
Here are some top spots in Central Florida to view autumn leaf change:
|Harry P. Leu Gardens
|50-acre botanical garden with maple, sweetgum, and dogwood trees
|Tibet Butler Nature Preserve
|Trails wind through forest with native maples and oaks
|Lake Eola Park
|Historic downtown park circled by red maples and sweetgums
|Riverside oaks and maples change color along the Wekiva River
State parks like Blue Spring and De Leon Springs also have trails that showcase Florida’s fall foliage.
Tips for photographing Orlando’s autumn leaves
Here are some tips for capturing Orlando’s fall color at its peak:
- Use a polarizing filter to enhance color saturation and reduce glare.
- Shoot during the “golden hours” after sunrise or before sunset when light is soft.
- Try backlighting leaves by positioning the sun behind your subject.
- Choose an overcast day to avoid harsh shadows and overexposed areas.
- Focus on single leaves rather than wide landscapes for more color impact.
- Look for contrasting backgrounds like water or dark tree trunks to make the colors pop.
Other signs of fall in Orlando
While the foliage is muted compared to northern spots, other changes signal the arrival of fall in Orlando:
- Cooler temperatures with highs in the 70s-80s F and lows in the 50s-60s F
- Changing bird migrations with snowbirds arriving from the north
- Theme parks decorated for the holidays with pumpkins, hay bales, and fall wreaths
- Football season kicks off with the UCF Knights and Florida Gators
- Festivals like Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival and Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party
Orlando won’t ever match the blazing reds and oranges seen up north. But visitors in mid-November will find pops of color at local parks and gardens if they know where to look. The most vibrant leaves can be found on sweetgums, maples, and other native trees. While subtler than other regions, the foliage provides one more reason to enjoy Orlando’s pleasant fall weather.