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Trees the Colour Purple

So why is foliage purple?

Plant leaves carry three primary classes of pigments that are relevant to the process of photosynthesis. These pigments are chlorophyll, carotinoids and anthocyanins.

Green plants generally contain a lot of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll molecules are very good at soaking up blue and red light from sunlight so these plants appear green to the human eye. Green is the type of light used the least by chlorophyll. When a leaf has a high concentration of chlorophyll relative to other pigments, the leaf appears green.

The reverse of that, where plants appear purple, blue or red is caused by a higher concentration of anthocyanin to chlorophyll present in leaf. Anthocyanin is a pigment very good at absorbing green light from sunlight, so the foliage on these trees appear red, blue or purple to the human eye.

On the right is a lovely selection of purple-foliaged trees, that remain predominantly purple all year. Adding any of these to your landscape will definitely up the interest value! While most purple trees don’t tolerate afternoon sun, a position where they get morning sun is perfect. This is a small consideration in light of the amazing affect when you team purple foliage with grey or lime green foliage plants.

If straight purple is not quite your go but you need some colour foliage inspiration, here is a selection of spectacular trees for autumnal colour. These delightful deciduous varieties turn various shades of yellow, orange, red and purple across the cooler months particularly from March to May.  

The year-round stunning foliage of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Cercis 'Forest Pansy' showing its dramatic impact against green in the landscape

Acer palmatum 'Atropurpureum'

A beautiful small tree growing to approximately four metres in height. Produces dark purple leaves in spring, turning redish in the summer months before turning scarlet in autumn. Great multi-seasonal foliage colour.

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Acer palmatum 'Dissectum Shidare (weeping standard)'

Also called a Japanese Cutleaf Maple, this weeping Maple makes a stunning addition to the landscape. Transitioning between purple and bronze red it retains this range of deep color throughout the year. It is a small tree with pendulous branches that can reach the ground if left.

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Acer platanoides 'Crimson Sentry'

This is a flashy crimson foliaged maple with dense upright branching. It has a compact growth habit with it's large crimson leaves in summer turning to gold and orange in autumn. Adds great colour contrast foliage. A small tree with greyish black bark that is lightly textured.

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Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood'

This deciduous upright Japanese maple has stunning dark-purplish, almost black-red serrated leaves into late summer, turning bright crimson in autumn. Photos really don't do it any justice. The fruits are paired samaras (wing shaped) and hang from the tree in clusters. It is one of the taller of the japanese maples, growing to about 5m tall.

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Prunus virginiana 'Purple Jewel'

This is a new non-fruiting plum with much larger leaves than others of the same cultivar. New green growth turns a deep wine red, with gorgeous, soft, blue-mauve undersides. Foliage colours will be more dynamic when grown in open, sunny positions. Holds its leaves until late autumn.

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Speciality Trees, an award winning wholesale nursery in Victorian is seeking an apprentice to join its production team at Narre Warren East. Details here.

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