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  • Fall Color Report

    November 13, 2013 – Since the leaf peak season has passed this is the final report on conditions for the High Country on this page.

    November 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    October 26, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    October 23, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    Autumn Color viewed from space Sunday October 20 in Western NC via the Modis Visible Satellite image. Image courtesy of Brad Panovich

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    October 19, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    October 16, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    Fall Leaf Color Report for Week of October 13, 2013 from The Fall Color Guy (Dr. Howie Neufeld). Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors

    “This week, plus the coming weekend, should be our peak fall leaf color times here in the Boone/Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain areas. A drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway will present excellent viewing, especially at 3,000’ and up. Colors are still developing at lower elevations, and won’t peak for another week or so, but the views should be great nonetheless. Sugar maples are really gearing up now. In Boone, along King Street, and also on the Blowing Rock Highway, there are several large sugar maples that just explode in yellow-orange brilliance at this time, and you can see them this week if you come up. Red maples are having a great year, and many are now peaking in the Boone area. A lot of yellow color is coming through now as the birches, beeches, tulip poplars, hickories and magnolias begin to show. Some of the oaks are also starting to color up, and the red, scarlet and black oaks will be the last major bursts of color on the landscape.

    Kathy Mathews says that “we will reach “peak” by next weekend [in the Cullowhee/Sylva area]. A lot of trees are dropping their leaves,” and she says “it would be best to advise tourists to come up next weekend, I think. She says she’s “astonished we haven’t had a frost yet to bring on a real peak of simultaneous color! A frost may not happen until the end of the month, but many trees will be finished by then.” Kathy then drove “over the mountains on Hwy 64 south to Clay County this weekend, between Franklin and Hayesville, and the pass where the AT crosses highway 64 near the Standing Indian Recreation Area is just gorgeous now. That area is in true peak, with lots of bright colors.”

    Jonathan Horton reports that Asheville is still predominantly green, but there is color on the surrounding hills. Oaks and hickories are coloring up and adding to the other trees that already show color (maples, sourwoods, dogwoods). Later today I’ll have a report from the Cashiers/Highlands area. The government shutdown is preventing me from reporting about Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but my intuition says the high elevations are peaking now, so this weekend should also be good for a drive up to Newfound Gap. Cades Cove will most likely peak later as it’s at low elevation in the Park.

    We’ve had very moderate temperatures these last few weeks, even excessively warm the prior week. I think that delayed the progression of color development by several days as the peak is yet to appear here in the Boone area, and the average date of appearance is between the 10th and 14th of October. Also, as Kathy Mathews from WCU points out, we have not had a hard frost yet, which can synchronize leaf colors somewhat (it can also speed up leaf loss too). We did get down to 34oF a few mornings ago, and I’m sure it went below freezing at the higher elevations like Banner Elk. But the long-range forecast shows temperatures above 40oF for the next week or so. There is a front moving in, and there could be rain late Wednesday and some of Thursday, and even a chance this coming weekend (sorry, I can’t do anything about Mother Nature!). But nothing too major (and no severe winds) so come on up and enjoy the best show nature ever devised!”

    October 12, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    October 10 from Brad Panovich WCNC TV Charlotte

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    October 9, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    October 5, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    October 2, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    Fall Leaf Color Report for Week of September 29, 2013 from The Fall Color Guy (Dr. Howie Neufeld). Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors

    “This is the first weekend of autumn and also the first time I can report that fall leaf color in the mountains is beginning to show in earnest, especially above 4,000’ elevation. Check out the photo attached which I took at Tynecastle, at the intersection of Rts. 105 and 184, near Banner Elk, and just west of Grandfather Mountain State Park. The sugar and red maples are coming out and should peak at the higher elevations by next weekend. American ash is turning also (a dull purplish color), and the mountain ash fruits are like red beacons against the background of spruce and still green oaks. They are quite spectacular this year, perhaps a result of all that rain earlier in the summer (Grandfather Mountain, for example, received 29” of rain in July alone!). There are four species of maples on Grandfather Mountain (red, sugar, striped, and mountain) which turn varying shades of orange and red (often both), although striped maple is unique in that its large leaves only turn a brilliant yellow only.

    You may also see the evergreen rhododendrons (R. maximum and R. catawbiense) dropping their older leaves now. That is normal at this time of year, and you can tell which is which by the color: the senescent leaves of R. maximum are yellow while those of R. catawbiense have a reddish hue to them. Also, the leaves of R. maximum are longer while the other species has shorter, more oval leaves. Sassafras is also turning, and you can find leaves ranging from dark green, to yellow, to orange to red, all on the same tree! Huckleberry bushes are now peaking and have a deep burgundy color. There is a good display of these shrubs on the rock outcrops on Beacon Hill, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway east of Grandfather Mountain. Finally, you may have seen tree trunks covered in a deep red vine (note the picture at the top of my academic fall color page (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors). This is Virginia creeper, and it’s peaking now throughout the High Country.

    Down by Cullowhee and Sylva, Kathy Mathews reports that she is seeing “many trees and shrubs turning yellow (tulip poplar, cherry, birch, walnut) and red (dogwoods, sourwoods, red maple, burning bush, etc.), but the chlorophyll is still present as well, so the red colors are looking somewhat dull.” She feels that their peak is still several weeks away.

    Based on the rate of development of leaf color, I think visitors will enjoy peak colors by next weekend at the higher elevations, especially on the slopes of Grandfather (and particularly on the east-facing slopes), at the higher elevations in Elk Knob State Park just north of Boone and on Roan Mountain on the border of NC and TN and finally, in the Smokies, also at the higher elevations. Colors won’t be at their peak in Boone and Highlands until the weekend after next. One positive thing going for us is that the weather for this coming week is forecast to be sunny and cool, which is perfect for color development.”

    September 28, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    September 26, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    September 21, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    Fall Leaf Color Report for Week of September 16, 2013 from The Fall Color Guy (Dr. Howie Neufeld). Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors

    “The forecast for this week is, in a nutshell, the same as last week: Green! Trees in the High Country still have most of their leaves, and there is isn’t much to report right now. Yellow buckeyes are about the only tree species to show a significant change: most have started losing their leaves (remember, these trees are early to leaf out, and early to lose them in the fall – the botanical equivalent of early to bed, early to rise!). However, they also get a leaf fungal disease, so their leaves do not provide much color. Dogwoods and burning bushes are coming along and increasing in color each week, and the occasional sugar or red maple have some orange/red leaves. Otherwise, as I stated above, the word is still GREEN.

    The long-range forecast for the southeastern portion of the country, including the southern Appalachians, is for above-normal amounts of precipitation. That doesn’t bode well for great fall leaf color, because sunny and cool conditions are what lead to good fall leaf color. But so far the weather has been near perfect for good fall color, so let’s hope that we don’t get too much rain in the next few weeks. If not, we should have a great fall color season this year!

    As I was driving back from a short visit to the coast on Sunday, I was thinking of how green the mountains looked as I headed up US 421 into Watauga County. That started me thinking of all things green: How Green Was My Valley, the Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence, and It Isn’t Easy Being Green (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51BQfPeSK8k, with Kermit the Frog). What phrases can you think of that relate to “green”?

    Have a great week! Don’t forget, you can check out essays on the science of fall color at my other fall color site, as well as a list of what colors each tree turns: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=51BQfPeSK8k”

    Map conceived by Howard Neufeld and Michael Denslow, constructed by Michael Denslow

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    September 14, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
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    September 7, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network

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    The summer of 2013 will go down as the wettest on record for the area, and for many residents it will go down as one that was not a summer at all. Attention is turning quickly toward fall and what might it bring.

    Dr. Howard Neufeld is not only Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University, but he is also known as The Fall Color Guy. Along with sharing his expertise with the NC Division of Tourism each fall, in 2012 he allowed WataugaRoads.com to share his insight and information.

    Once again in 2013 WataugaRoads.com is teaming up with The Fall Color Guy to provide information as the colors start changing. On Monday of this week (July 29, 2013) WataugaRoads.com asked the question about what we might see with fall colors this year due to the amount of rain received.

    Dr.Neufeld replied:

    “1. People think fall colors are good when they last a long time, and have plenty of brilliant reds interspersed with the oranges and yellows. So, the quality will depend on how much “redness” we have this fall.

    2. Trees tend to make more red colors (anthocyanins) in the fall when it’s cool and sunny, and if we have a slight but not severe drought. This year, cloudy, rainy, no drought!

    3. Sunny days means more photosynthesis, and more sugars produced in the leaves, and sugars induce anthocyanin production.

    4. A slight drought impairs uptake of nitrogen (we think) and some experiments suggest that plants low on N make more anthocyanins.

    5. If it is rainy, then there is less photosynthesis, fewer sugars, and more nitrogen uptake (soils are wetter for longer), and hence, trees may make fewer anthocyanins.

    6. So, if the weather keeps consistent, we may see duller red colors this fall. The oranges and yellows should be as usual, as they do not depend as much on light or drought.

    7. How long the fall color will last is another thing, and also, it is unknown if a wet summer will change the timing of fall colors.

    8. Usually, fall colors peak around Oct 11-14 in the Boone area; sooner by a few days up to a week at higher elevations, later at lower ones. Nice colors can stick around for a week or more, although the peak usually comes and goes in just a few days, weather permitting (no high winds for example).

    9. If the wet conditions extend the growing season, then the initiation of fall colors might be delayed by several days, or, if trees decide that they’ve got all they need for this season, they may initiate fall colors early instead. We just don’t know at this point. It will also depend on what the weather does in late August through September.”

    Scroll below for a look at what happened in 2012. Also check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at his ASU page where you can also read about the science of fall colors.

    Aug 20, 2013 on ASU campus. Photo: Kara Harmon
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    Aug 6, 2013. Photo: Kenneth Reece

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    On Tuesday July 30, 2013 Anita Presnell shared these photos of some early changes from Valle Crucis Park.

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    Photos by Anita Presnell from Valle Crucis Park on Tuesday July 30,2013.

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    Photos by Anita Presnell from Valle Crucis Park on Tuesday July 30,2013.

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    Photos by Anita Presnell from Valle Crucis Park on Tuesday July 30,2013.

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    2012

    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net
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    *The following information is courtesy of Dr Howie Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University. Dr Neufeld is other wise known as “The Fall Color Guy”. Along with sharing his expertise with the NC Division of Tourism, he has agreed for WataugaRoads.com to post his information.*

    Fall Color Report for Week of October 29

    In the years that I have been reporting on fall color, I have rarely had to contend with hurricane-induced snow storms, but that is what is forecast for this week as Hurricane Sandy moves up the east coast this week and combines with a cold front coming in from the upper Midwest. According to the latest weather reports, significant accumulations of snow are expected for the southern Appalachians in North Carolina, all the way down to Asheville. Some 15” of snow may fall at the highest elevations, with 6” expected for Boone coupled with high winds gusting over 60 mph. If that doesn’t take down the last of the leaves, nothing will! Needless to say, the first half of this week will not be a good time to head to the mountains to view what remains of the fall color.

    Conditions are supposed to ameliorate by Thursday this week, but the high winds will have removed the last vestige of fall color at the high elevations. Already, prior to this storm, most of the leaves have already fallen from elevations above 2,500’. What remains of fall color viewing has now moved to the lower elevations and the foothills. A few oaks and beeches are clinging to their burgundy red or chocolate brown leaves (but only a few). These species tend to hold on to their leaves longer than most others. Overall, this was a relatively short fall color season at higher elevations (and somewhat duller in color) compared to some in the past. Colors at lower elevations in some locations were better than they were at higher elevations.

    Jonathan Horton, in Asheville, reports that colors look good around Marion, Morgantown and Old Fort, but the storm this week may take down most of those leaves. Matt Popowski reports that colors (prior to the big storm) were coming on well in Chimney Rock State Park, southeast of Asheville and near Lake Lure. He writes: “The higher elevations of Chimney Rock and Lake Lure have exploded with vibrant leaf colors, displaying remarkable color around the Chimney level. Hiking the Skyline trail from the Chimney to Exclamation Point is quite spectacular! Golden yellows have appeared in our buckeyes, birch, beech and walnut trees. The hickories are also starting to turn yellow. Sourwoods and some dogwoods are still bright red, and the maples are adding red to our mountains. [H]igh winds could bring down some of the leaves. Lower elevations should peak during the first week of November and color will likely continue into the second week.

    A quick check of several other state parks (Crowders Mountain, Gorges, South Mountains, and Table Rock State Parks) finds that the color peaks have passed in those locations and my contacts in Gorges and South Mountains report the trails are nearly leafless now. It seems we are rapidly approaching the end of the fall color season for this year. I hope you were able to get up here during periods of good weather to check out the fall foliage displays this year.

    For more information, don’t forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors). Happy and safe driving!

    *The following information is courtesy of Dr Howie Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University. Dr Neufeld is other wise known as “The Fall Color Guy”. Along with sharing his expertise with the NC Division of Tourism, he has agreed for WataugaRoads.com to post his information.*

    Fall Color Report for Week of October 21

    Well, you know the dictum – it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature! You may remember that last weekend I said it was probably peak color time for the Boone to Grandfather area. But I was wrong, to say the least! After a drive off the mountain on Saturday, Mother Nature surprised me by bringing out the brilliant reds from the red maples and oaks, contrasting them against the bright yellows of late turning sugar maples. This combination brought out the colors all along the eastern flank of the mountains, from Ashe County down to Linville Falls.

    Given the mostly calm and sunny weather expected this week, I would say that these colors will persist to the coming weekend. Note that the best color viewing is either early in the morning when the sun is at a low angle, or just before dusk, for the same reason. Those are also the best times to take photos of the leaves. I saw good color all the way down into the foothills and even as far as Wilkesboro and beyond, but the intensity of colors is much better closer to the mountains at elevations between 1,500′ and 3,000′.

    It is true, though, that many trees above 3,000′ have lost leaves, especially the tulip poplars and some of the early turning maples and birches, but enough trees remain with leaves to make a trip up here worth the effort. You will especially like the views off the Parkway of the leaves at lower elevations, where the colors are reaching their peak now.

    Farther south, my contacts tell me that colors are good from Maggie Valley and Waynesville, on into the Smokies. In Highlands many places are now at their peak. Karen Kandl, Associate Director of the Highlands Biological Station, writes that between Cullowhee and Cashiers and over to Highlands “many of the small oaks along the road are deep dark reds. Tulip poplars and beeches are yellow. Sassafras is yellow, orange and red. When the sun hits these leaves in the early morning, it is absolutely beautiful.” This past weekend was good, and colors should hold to the coming weekend also.

    Matt Popowski gives us weekly updates from Chimney Rock: “Just in the past couple days some nice yellows and oranges have appeared on the tops of mountain peaks around Chimney Rock and Lake Lure. Bright, colorful foliage is visible along major driving routes, offering a stunning drive to Chimney Rock. The poplars are a vibrant gold now and the sourwoods, dogwoods and sassafras have turned red in the Park.” Although there is still a lot of green, “Chimney Rock’s fall colors should continue to brighten dramatically over the next couple weeks.”

    Pilot Mountain State Park is coloring up nicely now and according to the rangers, will peak this week and the coming weekend. From now till early November If you go up there on a weekend, note that parking could be tight, so either go early, or be prepared to wait for a space.

    For more information, don’t forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors) . Happy and safe driving!

    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net

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    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net

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    *The following information is courtesy of Dr Howie Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University. Dr Neufeld is other wise known as “The Fall Color Guy”. Along with sharing his expertise with the NC Division of Tourism, he has agreed for WataugaRoads.com to post his information.*

    Fall Color Report for Week of October 14

    This was the peak fall color weekend for the Blowing Rock to Grandfather Mountain region, and fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway was brilliant and awe inspiring. I think the leaf color will last through this week to the upcoming weekend. If you are planning to come up this week or next weekend, there should still be color in this area of the High Country, even though it may be slightly past peak. There are still many green trees starting to turn, so colors should persist for a while. For example, oaks are just now starting to turn, and they bring nice deep rust red colors to the landscape.

    On Saturday, I took a long drive from Boone all the way down to Asheville, then back along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Asheville proper has not yet peaked, and there is still plenty of green there which will turn in the next 10 days. As you progress north on the Parkway from Asheville, colors become more vibrant as elevation increases, peaking around 4,000′. Craggy Gardens offers some great views and easy hiking, but note that at this elevation (over 5,700′) the colors are past their peak. But with the colors coming out in lower locations, the views from there are tremendous, and I still recommend taking the drive up to this spot.

    However, to be truthful (and I report the colors as I see them) the fall foliage display this year is not as vibrant or intense as in past years. The reds, while apparent in patches here and there, are duller than usual, resulting in a yellow/orange cast to this year’s display. Some trees turned early this year and two storms knocked leaves off just as they were reaching their most intense color (mainly birches and maples). Also, oaks, which are traditionally late turners, seem even more behind this year, which is why many locations still have colors mixed with green. That being said, I still think it’s worth the drive up to the mountains to see the colors – this is still nature’s best color display, even if it’s not a 10 this year!

    Colors look good in and around Mt. Mitchell, but between there and Linville, where the Parkway dips down lower, colors go back to pre-peak conditions, with lots of green hanging around. Colors pick up, as I noted above, in the Grandfather to Blowing Rock area, and continue on up to the Virginia border. Some of my readers inform me that down by Highlands/Cashiers, colors are about the same as they are in the Boone area, which means they are near peak in that area.

    Matt Popowski, from Chimney Rock State Park, reports that “the Chimney Rock area overall still has a lot of green” and some leaves are turning around the Chimney level. He also writes that the “tulip poplar trees are turning gold and the sourwoods are a nice red”. Over the next week he expects more color in the dogwoods, buckeyes, birch, beech, walnuts and sassafras with peak colors there in a couple of weeks, when “the oaks and hickories are at their most vibrant”.

    For more information, don’t forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors) . Happy and safe driving!

    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net

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    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net

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    *The following information is courtesy of Dr Howie Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University. Dr Neufeld is other wise known as “The Fall Color Guy”. Along with sharing his expertise with the NC Division of Tourism, he has agreed for WataugaRoads.com to post his information.*

    Fall Color Report for Week of October 7

    While this past Saturday was beautiful, and hopefully people enjoyed the fall colors in the High Country, Sunday turned cloudy, rainy and cool. Monday is supposed to be partially dreary also, but then after that, the weather reports look very promising for a sunny end to the week and cool, clear days on the weekend, all the way from the Smokies to the Virginia border. That’s good, because the colors in the Highlands/Cashiers and Boone areas are going to peak by mid-week, and those colors will persist through the weekend. So, if you’re thinking of heading up to the mountains to see the fall foliage, this coming week and weekend look to be a good bet.

    The birches have really come on this past week, providing a yellow highlight to the forests and the tulip poplars are starting to yellow up also; however, they tend to lag behind the birches. Beeches have also started yellowing, but they soon turn to brown, as do the magnolias and chestnut sprouts. Sugar Maples continue their progression toward orange and yellow, turning first on the outside of the crown, with the colors then working their way inward with time. Interestingly, tulip poplars turn in an opposite manner, from the inside out. Why some trees turn from the inside out and others from the outside in is one of the mysteries of fall leaf color!

    Red maples, red oaks, sourwoods, dogwoods, Virginia Creeper and blueberries are all giving the forests that red accent which most people agree makes for a great fall color season. If the maples and oaks do well this year, we should have an exceptional fall color season. We’ll know later this week if that will happen.

    Colors have peaked at higher elevations, such as Grandfather Mountain, Mt. Mitchell and Roan Mountain, and the quality looks pretty good. Around Blowing Rock at Bass and Price Lakes, colors are also very vibrant now, and perhaps among the best along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Craggy Gardens, Mt. Pisgah, and Graveyard Fields are reported to be at their peaks, and should be excellent this week. The southern end of the Parkway though, has not yet peaked, so maybe reserve a trip there for later.

    This is the week to take in the foliage at high elevations, so for scenic drives, head upwards! The Cherohala Skyway in Robbinsville is a good bet, as is the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Cherokee, past Maggie Valley, and then on to Graveyard Fields at milepost 418. Craggy Gardens is a favorite spot, as is the Linn Cove Viaduct just north of Grandfather Mountain. Doughton Park at milepost 340 should be looking good these days and is a great place for hikes as is Mt. Mitchell State Park. Also, check out the various apple cider/honey stands along the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s time for North Carolina apples!

    A really great website for fall foliage color reports can be found at the Blue Ridge Parkway Guide by Virtual Blue Ridge: http://www.virtualblueridge.com/color-reports/. They update frequently, and have archived reports from the past and they cover the entire 470 miles of the Parkway. For more information, don’t forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors). Happy and safe driving!

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    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net

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    Fall Color Report for Week of September 30, 2012

    *The following information is courtesy of Dr Howie Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University. Dr Neufeld is other wise known as “The Fall Color Guy”. Along with sharing his expertise with the NC Division of Tourism, he has agreed for WataugaRoads.com to post his information.*

    After driving around the mountains this week, I feel comfortable saying that the timing of peak color for this year should be on schedule with past years. Although some trees turned early this year (dogwoods, sourwoods, maples), the rest of the trees seem to be progressing at their usual pace, and based on what I saw this weekend, I think the colors will peak between next weekend and the following one, putting them right on their usual schedule.

    For the Boone area, I notice that there are patches of good color here and there, but most of the slopes are still primarily green. However, color is showing up more and more each day. By next weekend I think color will be well along, even peaking above 3,500′ elevation, such as at Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, and other high peaks. I have a report that down by Highlands, the trees are also progressing at about the same pace, although they may be slightly behind the Boone area, but not by much.

    I took a hike through the Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, just outside West Jefferson in Ashe County. There was good color on a few slopes, particularly those in a cold air drainage, while off in the distance, the hills were beginning to turn from green to yellow/orange. Birches have picked up this week, and are turning bright yellow. Burning bush (Euonymus alata) is reaching its peak burgundy red now, as are high and low bush blueberries. The once majestic American chestnut, whose sprouts are quite common in this natural area, is turning yellow followed by a nice chocolate brown. Maples are showing a variety of colors, from yellow to orange to red, often all within one leaf! Scarlet oaks are beginning to turn deep burgundy, while beeches are turning yellow then bronze at higher elevations. Sassafras is also turning now, and one can find leaves of just about any color, from yellow all the way to red, on the same tree.

    I highly recommend taking Rt. 194 south, starting just south of West Jefferson on US 221, over to Todd. This is one of North Carolina’s scenic byways and is a wonderful way to see great fall colors and rural landscapes but without all the traffic one gets on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is also the general store in Todd should you want to stop and get something to eat or to buy a T-shirt. Another destination is Satulah Mountain, just outside Highlands. If you take US 64 south from Highlands to Franklin (the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway) you’ll encounter a number of beautiful falls in the Cullasaja Gorge, including Dry Falls, which you can walk behind!

    VisitNC.com has a great listing of scenic drives, plus summaries of the history of the areas as well as maps. Remember, colors start earliest at the higher elevations and then work their way downslope each week. For more information, don’t forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors). Happy and safe driving!

    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net
    1x1.trans Fall Color Report

    1x1.trans Fall Color Report

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    Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net

    1x1.trans Fall Color Report

    1x1.trans Fall Color Report

    *The following information is courtesy of Dr Howie Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University. Dr Neufeld is other wise known as “The Fall Color Guy”. Along with sharing his expertise with the NC Division of Tourism, he has agreed for WataugaRoads.com to post his information.*

    Fall Color Report for Week of September 23, 2012

    I’m happy to report that fall color is now showing up on most mountain slopes in the High Country. The hills are still mostly green, but just driving on the roads, or hiking on mountain trails, you can see the beginnings of fall color dotting the slopes. As expected, the best developed color is at the higher elevations, especially above Stack Creek on the eastern flank of Grandfather Mountain. This one ridge always peaks early each season, but it also has some of the most spectacular color each year. Something about that ridge causes the colors to be vibrant every year. It’s easily seen from vantages off the Parkway and from the northern rock outcrop on Beacon Hill (or from the parking lot too).

    Sourwoods continue to turn red, while maples are changing yellow/orange and red. High bush blueberries are turning a deep red while sassafras is just starting to turn its usual mixture of orange/yellow/red. Birches are dropping a lot of leaves early for some reason, but those remaining are yellowing up. Fraser magnolias are beginning to change from green to their usual yellow followed by a changeover to chocolate brown. Most other trees are still mainly green.

    I saw good color this Sunday along the Parkway between Linville and Blowing Rock. If you hike around Price Lake next weekend (a flat and easy two miles) you should be rewarded with much better color. Our weather has turned perfect for good fall color: cool mornings and sunny days, the perfect duo! This Monday, the low is supposed to be in the mid 30s! As long as it stays above freezing, we’ll be ok. My feeling is that colors will peak at their usual times this season; mid-October in the Boone and Highlands areas and the third week of October in the Asheville area and other lower elevation locations.

    For some great drives this coming week, consider roads that take you high up in elevation, where the color develops first. One great drive is the Blue Ridge Parkway north from US 421 to Laurel Springs and points north up past Bluff Mountain and Doughton Park. Another good drive is the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway, which starts at US 276 in Waynesville, and goes for about 79 miles (you don’t have to drive all of it to see great fall color!). This road traverses some high elevations and is for viewing early fall leaf displays. See this website for a complete description of the drive: .

    A great resource for drives is the NCDOT’s Scenic Byway Book (http://www.ncdot.gov/travel/scenic/) which has 54 scenic drives in the state. VisitNC.com also has a great listing of scenic drives, plus summaries of the history of the areas as well as maps. Remember, colors start earliest at the higher elevations and then work their way downslope each week. For more information, don’t forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors). Happy and safe driving!

    Fall Color Report for Week of September 16th, 2012
    This report marks our first official fall leaf color report for the 2012 Fall Color Season in the North Carolina Mountains – that is, we will be up on VISITNC.COM and will be here for the duration of this year’s fall color season. Many of you have been writing me and wondering if the record warmth we’ve experienced this year will affect fall leaf color, and I’ve been telling everyone that since this is an unprecedented year in terms of warmth that we have nothing to base our predictions on. What I can say is that we have not had any severe drought, which is good, and recently, the weather has shifted noticeably cooler, with warm sunny days, and all of these conditions are conducive to good fall leaf color. So, this far ahead, I am predicting a good year for fall leaf color, assuming our weather continues to cooperate over the next few weeks.

    That being said, I have noticed some unusual patterns among the trees. Dogwood trees began turning two weeks ago, which is very early. I’ve also noticed sumac along roadsides turning red, and sugar maples have been turning orange and yellow since late August. Today, I spoke to the North Carolina Christmas Tree Growers, and we went up to Roan Mountain, elevation ~5,800’. There, I saw noticeable coloration in the woods, and even all the way down to 3,000’ at Elk River in Avery County. Most of the trees turning color were sugar maples (yellow/orange to red), mountain ash (yellowish), and chestnuts (also yellow, but browning too due to a leaf disease they get each year at this time). Some birches were also yellowing up while black locusts were dropping their leaves due to a native insect that eats their leaves.

    So, are these observations indicative of an early fall leaf color season? It is possible that some species might react to the warm temperatures and drop leaves early, while others maintain their usual schedule. If that happens, we may see a somewhat extended, but diluted fall color season. If most trees turn color at their usual time, then we should expect a great fall color season. We’ll know more each week, and I’ll keep you informed as to how all this works out.

    For some great drives, consider coming up Rt. 261 from Bakersville/Spruce Pine to Roan Mountain. The Appalachian Trail crosses the road there, and you can hike in the spruce-fir forests on one side and on the balds on the other. It’s a great place to hike, with tremendous views all around. Other drives include the Blue Ridge Parkway to Grandfather Mountain State Park, the Linn Cove Viaduct, and points north and south. U.S. 64 through Cashiers/Highlands is also a wonderful drive, and there are numerous places to stop and hike along the way.

    Remember, colors start earliest at the higher elevations and then work their way downslope each week. For more information, don’t forget to check my Fall Color Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967) and my ASU page, where you can also read about the science of fall colors (http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors). Happy and safe driving!

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    Fall Color Report for Week of September 9th, 2012

    This Sunday, a high pressure system from the upper Midwest moved into the North Carolina Mountains, bringing with it sunny, dry, and cooler air. Temperatures on Sunday got as low as 46oF, which is great sleeping weather and also just what the doctor has ordered for a good fall display! We are about four weeks away from peak color in the Boone area, and if the weather conditions stay like this over the next three weeks, we should expect a good fall color season.

    We are fortunate not to have had any severe drought this summer, and that’s another good sign it could be a good fall color season. However, a dry period these next few weeks may make for more intense colors, particularly the reds, according to most fall color predictors. However, the mechanism they propose, which is that mild drought concentrates the sugars, doesn’t make much biological sense to me. Rather, I think that a dry period means more sunny days and the more sun, the more sugars a tree can make. When trees load up on sugars, they produce more anthocyanins, which are the pigments that give us the red colors.

    Since last week’s report, there hasn’t been much change in the status of the trees. It’s still very green throughout the mountains. However, if you take a hike through the woods (and I recommend that you do!), you’ll see plenty of signs of the coming fall in the understory. The bright red berries on the Jack-in-the-Pulpits, and the dappled red berries of the False Solomon’s Seal are sure signs that summer is ending. Indian Cucumber Root, another understory herb, has the unusual habit of setting its dark black berries against a red splash of color on the leaves below the fruits, perhaps to aid in attracting animals to disperse the seeds (see the picture below). I wonder what eats those seeds. One published study suggested deer, small mammals, and possibly birds might remove the fruits.

    Remember, fall colors start first at the higher elevations and next week I’ll be checking out the high elevation areas and reporting in detail on their fall color status. Stay tuned, and have a good week!
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    1x1.trans Fall Color Report

    Conceived by Howard Neufeld and Michael Denslow
    Map Constructed by Michael Denslow

    This map above gives an estimation of the timing of fall color peaks for the various regions of North Carolina. If you have used our map in the past, you’ll see that we have added two new features to the mountain section of our fall color map: towns and scenic roads. We hope these new graphics help you orient yourself as you decide where to visit in the North Carolina Mountains during our fall foliage season. This map differs from most other such maps because it combines the effects of both elevation and latitude on fall color, whereas most other maps simply use elevation alone.

    We constructed the map using the following assumptions. First, we assumed that fall color would start earlier at higher elevations. We then figured (guessed!) that for each 1,000′ increase in elevation, peak fall colors would occur about one week earlier, with the exception of those areas near the coast, where we divided the elevation into 500′ sections.

    For the latitude effect, we used data from published papers suggesting that each degree of latitude north is equivalent to going up in elevation by about 200 m (656′). This means that if you were to compare 3,000′ down in Murphy with 3,000′ in northern Ashe County (which are about 2.5 degrees apart), it would be as if you were really at 3,656′ in Ashe County, at least fall color peak-wise. In other words, the same elevation in the north is cooler than the same elevation in the south, which causes the vegetation to differ. The resultant cooler temperatures mean that peak fall colors will come earlier to those same elevations in the north than in the south.

    Thus, our map is among the first to take both elevation and latitude into consideration. However, it is only an approximation, and we would love to hear from any of you as to whether we have hit the fall color peak correctly or missed it. Over the next few years, we hope to “adjust” the map to better model the progression of fall colors throughout our state.
    Thanks to Michael Denslow of the Department of Biology at ASU for creating this graphic.
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    You can find more information from The Fall Color Guy at the following links:

    http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors/fall-color-report-week-september-10-2012

    http://www.fallcolorguy.blogspot.com/

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Fall-Color-Guy/222437294470967