By the end of October, very little colorful fall foliage remains in the Tucson mountains, and to find fall colors, one has to look for deciduous trees at lower elevations. In early November, I discovered these golden-leaved Velvet Ash (Fraxinus velutina) trees in the eastern foothills of the Rincon Mountains east of Tucson.
These Velvet Ash trees were growing in a big sandy wash along the road to Happy Valley in the Rincon Mountains. Velvet Ash trees are quite common in the washes and canyons there, and some of them have grown to be quite large.
According to the fossil record, our area used to have a much wetter climate, and Velvet Ash trees were part of a vast deciduous forest that covered the valleys and foothills. Today, in pitifully reduced numbers, Velvet Ash trees are now limited to riparian areas where they can find the permanent water sources they require.
Velvet Ash leaves are pinnately-compound with 5 to 9 leaflets, which may either be smooth-edged or lightly toothed.