Fall Color Report
*Reports for Fall 2014 will start roughly the first week of September. Below you can find the updates for 2013 and for 2012 here*
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
October 26, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
October 23, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
Autumn Color viewed from space Sunday October 20 in Western NC via the Modis Visible Satellite image. Image courtesy of Brad Panovich
October 19, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
October 16, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
“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
October 10 from Brad Panovich WCNC TV Charlotte
October 9, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
October 5, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
October 2, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
“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
September 26, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
September 21, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
“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
September 14, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
September 7, 2013. Graphics from The Foliage Network
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.
“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.”
Aug 6, 2013. Photo: Kenneth Reece
On Tuesday July 30, 2013 Anita Presnell shared these photos of some early changes from Valle Crucis Park.
You can find more information from The Fall Color Guy at the following links: