Various species of oaks are found throughout the U.S. Oaks are not known for having brilliant color like maples, but oaks definitely have a role in fall foliage beauty. Oak foliage tends to have deeper, richer tones. When the earlier, brightly colored maples have dropped their leaves, it is the oaks that carry the colorful fall foliage until winter finally arrives. Some oak species retain their leaves through most of the winter, offering the dull gray winter landscape a touch of bronze or brown.
White oak foliage is typically deep purple in the autumn. The leaves cling to the tree through the winter, and drop when the new leaf buds grow the following spring. The purple color fades after freezing temperatures occur, and the leaves turn a deep brown color.
Red oaks have the brightest red foliage of all oaks. It is a deep red, not like the flaming scarlet of maples. Some years, depending on the weather, red oak foliage may be more of a reddish-brown.
Location, soil type and weather can affect the foliage color of a species. Black oaks in northern California, for example, are known for their dark red foliage. In southern California the foliage is yellow. The color fades to brown as autumn progresses to winter in both areas.
Pin oak trees have bronze or red leaves in the autumn. They fade to russet brown and remain on the tree through the winter, dropping the following spring as new leaves grow.
Sawtooth oak leaves provide yellow color in the fall. The color changes to golden brown and then brown as the leaves remain on the tree through winter.
Chinkapin oak foliage turns yellow-orange to orange-brown in the autumn. This species produces sweet acorns preferred by wildlife.