Brown is Beautiful

An Ode to An Underappreciated Color

Sarah Kern | November 27, 2023
beautiful brown leaves

Take time to appreciate the beauty of brown all around you!

With fall foliage, the timing of color changes and the onset of falling leaves is primarily regulated by the calendar as nights become longer. None of the other environmental influences – such as temperature, rainfall, food supply – are as unvarying as the steadily increasing length of night during autumn. As days grow shorter, and nights grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with Nature's autumn palette.  Brown is an important and beloved color on that palette. 

The warm brown of an oak at Creek Farm

While shades of brown may never be the shining star of a painting or design, you will struggle to create a complete piece without them.

white pine cones
A bumper crop of beautiful brown Eastern White Pinecones at Creek Farm

When folks think of foliage season, they often cut short their timeframe for viewing the wide variety of colors, including the warm brown hues that will be covered in snow shortly.  When asking for the “peak foliage” time, people are not asking for greens or browns but rather the bright and glowing reds, yellows and oranges that seem to make the hills glow. 

When asked for a favorite color, very rarely will you hear someone answer brown. The flashy red of the maples, the bright yellows of the birch. Foliage brings folks in – by the busload, literally – but just like big movie stars with the paparazzi following them closely, the reds and yellows burst on the scene for a quick moment, with folks clamoring to get the best shot they can of them.  Once the stars leave, there remain the browns, underappreciated to say the least. 

Perhaps we are rushing into the next season of the “holidaze” if you will, and we jump towards the lights and reds again, forgetting to appreciate the mellowing browns of the wild turkey so often featured in our thanksgiving décor. 

I’m here to state loud and proud that the browns are where it is at!

Beautiful Brown Nest
Beautiful brown nest by the creek

Brown is a very natural and earthy color, and our perceptions of these hues are influenced by features of the natural world like sand, wood, and earth. Brown can be a warm glow, the center of the brown eyed susans, warm delicious brownies, brown sugar, and our beloved New England Brown Bread. We might think of the richness of the brown of the coat of a mink or fisher, perhaps the brown eyes of the cow in our neighbors pasture. 

Fisher by
Fishers are related to weasels, mink, martens, and otters. (Photo: Forest Wander for Something Wild)

Brown leather, the brown of our beloved white tailed deer that some of us spend more time with in the woods come fall, the browns of bobcat, squirrel, red tailed hawks, and American robins. The brown creeper, the brown quill-less belly of a porcupine, alongside the browns of our acorns, tree trunks, and barred owl feathers.  Everyone is down with brown.

underneath the bark
More brown hues under the bark of an Eastern White Pine at Creek Farm

But what is brown? It’s a mix of red, black, yellow and more. Brown by any other name – well, taupe, rust, burnt sienna, burnt umber, chestnut, taupe, coffee, rust, so many shades of brown. 

Warm browns, cool browns, dark browns, light browns, but generally all happy to blend with their rich tones. Brown is often viewed as a dependable and reliable color. It is likely that this impression stems from its association with earth and being grounded and solid.

Brown is not a fanciful color, it does not have any frills or flourishes, but it is sturdy and down-to-earth. While some colors, like yellow or blue, tend to stimulate the imagination, brown grounds us in the present moment. 

Of all the colors in the rainbow, brown provides a sense of security and protection. This security is not obvious or in the spotlight, but takes place in the shadows. So in this world of ever increasing speed, don’t forget to appreciate the beauty and the warmth of the steady, dependable, warm, and welcoming browns.

a mixture of browns on the forest floor
A mixture of browns on the forest floor