Several factors contribute to an oak tree's show of fall foliage when autumn rolls around. Though some factors like temperature, rainfall and sunlight are out of your control, the type of oak tree you plant in your yard also has an effect on the foliage colors you can expect to see. Oak trees may not boast the striking bronze and maroon color of maple trees in fall, but they do provide a range of hues to add color to the fall landscape.
Red is one of the most dramatic and distinctive colors of the fall landscape, particularly against a horizon of lighter shades like yellow or orange. While maple trees may be better know for their striking red fall foliage, some varieties of oak trees also sport the rosy-hued flora. Both the eastern white oak and the aptly-named scarlet oak display bold red leaves in the later fall months. The broad spectrum of potential shades of red range from brick red to more deep and elegant scarlet reds.
Though less dramatic than bold red, russet-colored oak leaves are one of the hallmark foliage colors for many oak species. Russet is warm brown with red undertones; it is less a muddy brown and more of a bronze-like red. The pin oak and scarlet oak are known for displaying the distinctive russet leaves. Though not as glamorous as other colors, one of the values of russet leaves is that they tend to display later in the season, providing color when most other leaves have given way to bare branches.
Not all oak foliage colors are dark and dramatic. Some oak varieties sport the sunny yellow leaves often found on other species like beech or birch trees. The yellow spectrum of color for oak varieties like red oak and English oak tend to be tinted with darker hues like brown or red, distinguishing them from their bright yellow counterparts.
One variety of oak that offers an unusual foliage color is the white oak which sports a leaf shade of burgundy purple during the foliage season. The white oak's purple leaves tend to be less bold than the royal purple seen on some dogwood species, but the shade is still distinctly different than the more subdued russet and red shades of other oaks. White oak trees are particularly finicky about climate conditions; officials at the Iowa Department of Natural Resources warns that the purple hue readily transitions into a much duller shade of brown.