Fall foliage colors are rather scarce here in Tucson, and the best displays are those of Bigtooth Maples and Quaking Aspens in the surrounding mountains. Although collectively they don't form large scale displays, one of our native shrubs also has beautiful autumn foliage colors. The 3 to 5-lobed leaves of Thurber’s Cotton (Gossypium thurberi) turn a brilliant red in the fall.
The green balls at the branch tips are the developing seed capsules, which will eventually split open and reveal the large seeds and sparse cotton fibers inside. Because of its poor cotton fiber production, this species of cotton is not grown commercially.
Here in Tucson, Thurber’s Cotton grows mainly in the foothills, where its dazzling scarlet foliage is a bright bit of autumn cheer to Tucsonans such as myself.