Fall Color Report

Fall Color Peak Map

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

2016 UPDATES

For the 5th year in a row WataugaRoads.com & WataugaOnline.com is teaming up with Dr. Howard Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University, better known as The Fall Color Guy to provide information as the colors start changing.


Final Report from The Fall Color Guy – November 7, 2016

It’s been an interesting season, with below normal precipitation, and above normal temperatures (2016 will go down as THE warmest year in recorded history globally and it will be the third straight year for which we can say that. Think there is no climate change – think again!

But the colors did come out despite the unusual weather, although about a week to ten days late. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being Norman Rockwell spectacular colors (or Jackson Pollock colors), I’d say this year was a 7. Not great, but not bad in places.

There were trees that dropped leaves early, and some red trees didn’t color up as much as could be expected, but in places, the colors were quite nice. Spotty would be the word. And of course, it didn’t help that on THE peak weekend, we had the dreaded wind/rain storm that took down a substantial number of leaves. Sometimes Mother Nature just gets in a mood and there’s nothing to be done about it!

Urban maples in particular, looked great this year, so perhaps in the future we should take more time to check out cities for their fall colors as we do the mountains and rural hillsides!

Colors should be peaking now in the foothills and in the Piedmont area soon if not now. Because of my restricted travel this fall, I won’t be able to check out as many areas as last year. But Stone Mt. State Park and Chimney Rock State Park ought to be looking good this week and coming weekend.

I hope everyone had a great trip to the mountains. Remember, we have some of the cleanest air in all the east, so breathe deeply.

Maybe, just maybe, it will cool down and we’ll have some real fall weather. I know I’m looking forward to a nice frost. And so I leave you this season with the one small pocket of frost and frosted leaves that I found in a corner of my yard earlier this week. Let’s hope for more, and I’ll see you all next fall color season!


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

Final Report

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

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

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

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

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

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Fall Color Report for the Week of October 15, 2016 from The Fall Color Guy

As I stated in my last report, I thought colors would begin to come out rapidly this past week, and that has been the case. Pat on the back. Colors are about a week behind schedule compared to previous years, but they are now starting to show nicely. Today I was at Grandfather Mountain State Park, taking pictures and you see them if you go to this directory:
https://drive.google.com/…/fo…/0BxpSVO5IUz-EcHgyelJwMk1EUzA…

It was an unusual day today – as you drove from Blowing Rock to Grandfather Mt. on the Parkway, you would go through areas socked in by clouds. But once you got passed Rough Ridge, the clouds fell away, and the Park was totally clear. It was very unusual, because of the cloud cover was several thousand feet down and coming in from the east toward the flank of Grandfather, where it dissipated. It looked like what you would see from an airplane when you fly over clouds.

The highest elevations were just about at peak today, and there were some nice colorful maples, deep purple American ashes, and Mountain Ash trees with their bright red fruits. BThe birches lost a lot of their leaves in the high winds of last weekend (Jesse Pope, the Executive Director of the Grandfather Mountain Foundation, told me today that they clocked winds up to 92 mph on the Swinging Bridge during that period! However, the most of the maples held on to their leaves, and they are starting to show as bright red on the landscape. Sugar maples are turning yellow/orange now, and the magnolias are yellowing and turning chocolate brown. The oaks, which are always late turners, are just starting to show some coloration, and so once these other trees are past their peaks, the last hurrah of color will be from these trees.

The colors will peak at 3,000’ and above around Tuesday or Wednesday this week, but will still be good next weekend, which should be our best weekend to see colors in the Boone/Blowing Rock/Grandfather Mt. areas. After next weekend, the best views will be from the overlooks down into the lower forests, such as the Wilson Creek area, and the forests below Linville Falls on the way to Morganton. The drive on Rt. 181 from Pineola to Morganton offers beautiful views, less traffic than the Parkway, and the roadside stop at the Brown Mountain Overlook (of Brown Mountain Lights fame) is a good place to check out leaf colors. There is also a nice falls (Upper Creek Falls: http://www.hikingupward.com/PNF/UpperCreekFalls/), and it’s an easy hike with great fall color along the way. I highly recommend it!

I will say that the colors seem much duller this year – even though some scattering of trees are bright red. The best reds are the ornamental maples in town, but there is the occasional wild red maple too that is showing off nicely (there’s an impressive one on the right side of the Parkway as you head on the Parkway toward Cone Manor from U.S. 321. But the high temperatures and extreme drought this fall have curtailed colors this year. Nonetheless, the oranges and yellows will still be out there, except for the tulip poplars, which because of the drought, are going from yellow to black almost instantly. But it’s still worth a trip to the High Country to check things out. Now, if we could only get a Dunkin Donuts up here, we’d truly be in paradise (we do have a new Krispy Kreme, which helps).
We’re supposed to have near record highs in the next few days, due to a persistent high parked out in the Atlantic, and which is bringing up warm air from the southwest on its backside. That may slow down color development some, and keep the reds duller than we’d like. Sorry, but I can’t do anything about Mother Nature or the weather!

I’ll post more later on how conditions are further south, below Mt. Mitchell, and on into the Smokies, and down to Highlands. But for now, I’d say if you can get up here anytime this coming week, or the next weekend, you’ll hit the colors full on.

Endnote: next weekend will be jam packed at Grandfather, so if you’re planning on going, get there early (before 11 am), or go during the week instead of the weekend. Otherwise, you could be sitting in a traffic jam for up to 1 to 2 hrs on U.S. 221. The same can be said for the Rough Ridge trail.

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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Fall Color Report for the Week of October 2, 2016 from The Fall Color Guy

Colors have started appearing, almost as if someone had slowly turned up the color saturation on the forests, just like you can do with your digital photos or TV, and during the week, they have become gradually more noticeable. Although green is still the dominant color, we are finally seeing the beginnings of the color that attract all of us to the mountains at this time of the year.

However, we won’t see really wide-spread colors until the next weekend. So, if the weather holds as it has for the past week, with mornings getting down into the 40s and highs in the 70s, this should push forward the color development. As it’s been sunny also, that should bring out the red colors too, meaning we could be set up for a really good fall color season after all, despite the unusually warm and dry weather in August and September. For the next 10 days, the forecast is for highs in the 60s, lows in the 50s and then down to the 40s, possibly 30s at the higher elevations. I wish the morning lows were lower, but at least we’re heading toward ideal fall color weather.

The red maples in town continue to color up – the dominant variety colors from the top down, and we have dozens of trees with red tops and green bottoms, and that’s quite striking. The occasional maple and sourwood have started showing up in the woods too, plus birches, tulip poplars, and hickories are yellowing up now. Virginia creeper, a dominant vine in the southern Appalachians, turns a brilliant red color, and it is showing off now in places.

This coming week is the best time to check out the high elevations on the Parkway, as they peak earlier than lower elevations. The next two weekends will bookend the peak color season, although it could extend into the third week of October in the Boone/Blowing Rock area if the weather doesn’t get much colder. Warm weather tends to delay the onset of colors somewhat. As an example, see the two photos posted below, courtesy of Dave, from Raleigh. He shows the same location last year and this, and it is apparent that colors were more advanced last year then this year. This location is Purchase Knob, at 5,000′ elevation, and home to the Appalachian Highlands Education Learning Center, a part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, near Cataloochee, outside of Maggie Valley. Thanks to Dave for these photos!

In a post following this one, I’ll provide Jesse Pope’s assessment of the colors in and around Grandfather Mountain. Things are picking up there. Remember, if you go on the weekend now to popular areas like Grandfather Mt., be prepared to wait to get in. Best to go early or during the week. I know, you have to work, but if you have any leave available, this is the time of year to use one or two days of it!.

Some drives to consider: try taking US 64 west to Chimney Rock, through the gorge and on to Hendersonville, Brevard and through Cashiers, and ending up in Highlands. This highway meanders along the escarpment, especially west of Brevard, where the mountains drop down into Georgia. Excellent drive, and along the way are waterfalls and numerous hikes. I recommend Whitesides Mountain, between Cashiers and Highlands. Wonderful views. For the easiest hike, go up the jeep path first (not as pretty, but an easy, moderate slope all the way to the top), and then, make a roundtrip by taking the nature trail back to the parking lot (which is much easier to navigate going down than up). Also, just south of Lake Toxaway is Gorges State Park, with Rainbow Falls (2 mile hike one-way, all downhill, but not too difficult) and many trails. This park is somewhat lower in elevation and will change toward the end of October, but it’s a beautiful place, with a very nice visitor center. It is one of our newer state parks. Finally, don’t forget the Cradle of Forestry (where forest science started in North America) and Looking Glass Falls too, not too far from Brevard.

Where to eat? I recommend Randevu in Cashiers – wonderful breakfasts and lunches, great prices. The Market in Highlands is an unusual combination of a deli, pizza joint, and restaurant, also at very good prices. In Maggie Valley, try Butts-on-the-Creek for very good BBQ, while in the Boone/Blowing Rock area you can get good BBQ at Woodlands in Blowing Rock, at McKethans and Pedalin Pig in Boone (and Pedalin Pig also near Banner Elk) and also at Hampton’s Store in Linville.

Lastly, I recommend Linville Falls for a great hike (off of the Parkway), and the Chestoa Overlook a few miles south of the turnoff for Linville Falls. Nice picnic area, hiking along the Parkway through a nice oak-hickory-maple woodland, easy, and a very nice stone overlook with good views of Table Rock in the distance (very short hike, just a few hundred feet).

This week, and next weekend, are the times to check out the high elevations on the Parkway, from Mt. Mitchell, to Craggy Gardens, and Graveyard Fields, all the way to the highest point on the Parkway in the Balsams (at 6,000’). And don’t forget that the Parkway ends in the Smokies, and the drive up to Clingmans Dome is definitely worth it.

I’ll post photos to my Google drive location again, and you can view them here:
https://drive.google.com/…/fo…/0BxpSVO5IUz-ET0t5bmo3Wjg0S2M…

Happy Leaf Looking!!


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

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Fall Color Report for the Week of September 25, 2016 from The Fall Color Guy

It’s been hot (like 10 degrees above normal hot) for the past week and we’ve had essentially no rainfall (just a mist on three days). You can check out the history of Boone weather over the past few months here:https://weather.com/weather/monthly/l/Boone+NC+28607:4:US. We have had only 0.07” of rain since the first of September and the last rainfall of any substance was only 0.38” on August 21st. It is DRY here and the drought monitoring system now has us in a moderate drought category:http://www.ncdrought.org/hires.php while the southern portion of the mountains is in even more severe drought conditions.

These weather conditions tend to slow down and delay the onset of fall leaf colors, and when I compare this week to last week, I don’t see much of a change. There is more color development among the ornamental red maples in Boone, and a few red maples and sourwoods are turning in the woods, but aside from those, and a few sassafras, it is still very green up here.

Because of the drought, the tulip poplars, birches, and cherries are losing their leaves prematurely. In addition, I’ve seen some sugar maples with brown leaves at the tips of their branches, which suggests drought stress to me. It is supposed to rain on Mon and Tue of this coming week, and that will supply the trees with some water before they get any more stressed out, and it will bring down the temperatures to normal for this time of the year, and that should jump start color development in the woods. However, the predicted rainfall amounts are low to moderate, so this will not get us out our current drought situation.

You can also check out how scientists are studying phenology (this is when trees leaf out, flower, and lose leaves, over a season), which was set up courtesy of funding from the National Science Foundation. It is at this site:http://budburst.org/phenocam. If you go to this page (https://phenocam.sr.unh.edu/webcam/gallery/) you can see a gallery of webcam photos from around the country, each updated several times a day, and you can follow how colors develop around the country and around the world.

For my local webcam, which is a part of the PhenoCam Network, go here:https://phenocam.sr.unh.edu/webcam/sites/asuhighlands/. Note that as of today, the red maple right in the front is turning color nicely. This site is right off Highway 105 as one leaves Boone going south, and so is very representative of the High Country. The main trees in this forest are black cherry, black locust, yellow birch, and tulip poplar, plus some white pines. It will be interesting to watch, for the first time, the color change in this young forest.

Lastly, I want to thank Margaret Murphy, from Atlanta, whom I met on my hike around Price Lake today, for helping me out with Mila, the fall color dog. Mila tugs all the time we are hiking, making it difficult for me to take pictures. Margaret was kind enough to hold Mila’s leash when I wanted to take photos and I give a shout out to her for her kind help and engaging conversation as we walked the 2.3-mile trail around the lake. I highly recommend this hike for those who want an easy hike with no major rocks or hills. The trees surrounding the lake usually develop very nice color each fall too, and you can rent a canoe or kayak if you want and paddle around the lake.

Since there is little color to report this week, most of my photos focused on what’s happening on the forest floor. Lycopodiums are out and putting up their structures to release their spores, called sporophytes. These plants are also called ground pines, even though they are not pines. These primitive vascular plants, which do not produce seeds, have been around since the time of the dinosaurs! Rhododendrons are now dropping their oldest leaves, so all that yellow you see on them is a seasonal and natural occurrence. They are just getting rid of the oldest leaves. You can access my photos of my hike at Price Lake, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, at this site: https://drive.google.com/…/fo…/0BxpSVO5IUz-ESlFpNmdzM1NMRFU…

Mushrooms are doing their thing now, and the goldenrods are just getting past their peak, while the asters are currently at peak. And lastly, white snakeroot is flowering abundantly in the woods, especially along trail edges. This plant, which is highly poisonous when ingested, can get in the milk of cows if they eat this plant, and in fact, Abraham Lincoln’s mother may have died from drinking contaminated milk because her cows ate this plant.

That’s about it for this week. I expect by next week to be able to report much more color, since temperatures will be dropping nearly 30 degrees by the end of this week. Also, the Grandfather Mt. Foundation will be starting up their daily fall leaf color photos on October 1, and as I’ve done each year, I will post those on my Fall Color Guy site for you. Cheers!


Fall Color Report for Week of September 18, 2016 from The Fall Color Guy

The weather in the mountains has been above normal in temperature and below normal in terms of rainfall. The NC Climate Office predicts drought will develop throughout the mountains this fall, especially near the Georgia border: (http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/…/expert_as…/season_drought.png). The higher temperatures could slightly delay the onset of fall colors, but only by a few days, so I don’t think you’ll have to change your plans if you’ve already decided on which weekend or weekday that you’ll be coming up to the mountains. However, the drought could have more dramatic impacts, especially on the quality of the display.

Already, I’m seeing tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) trees losing massive amounts of their inner leaves, which are turning yellow and are then followed quickly by a blackening (caused most likely by oxidation byproducts, like when an apple turns brown after you bite into it). In years with adequate rainfall, tulip poplars hold on to their leaves later into the season, and near the end of a fall color season, stand as grand, yellow beacons against a gray, leafless hillside. But this year, I’m afraid that display may not come to be.

On my hike to Beacon Heights yesterday, off the Blue Ridge Parkway just east of Grandfather Mountain (and a highly recommended, short, easy, hike) I saw the beginnings of fall color, with red maples (Acer rubrum) coloring up, huckleberries and blueberries turning red, and sassafras (Sassafras albidum) on the outcrops showing nice orange-red coloration. Birches were yellowing up and blackberries (Rubus sp.) were turning a deep red in places.

Since the forests are still mostly green, the pleasure of visiting the mountains right now is more down to earth, that is, at eye-level and on the forest floor, where there is a lot happening that at peak fall color time most visitors either miss or never see for want of looking down instead of up. When I did this, I accidentally caught two moths “in flagrante delicto” (see link to my photos below). Well, birds and bees do it, and so do moths, although where these two got romantic came with a great risk of getting squashed, as it was right in the middle of the trail.

One unusual understory plant that has great color, but which most people miss if they are not being observant, is witch hobble, a native viburnum (Viburnum lantanoides) that has large, oppositely place green leaves. At this time of the year, the leaves begin to develop large purple blotches on them, in no particular or obvious pattern that I can detect, and this gives the plant a mottled appearance unlike anything else in the understory. With time, the entire leaf turns a deep burgundy to purple color, which highlights the upright, tan buds located between the two leaves. It is well worth the effort to find this plant when you’re in the mountains, as it is one of the most of our understory plants. They are scattered along the Beacon Heights trail, and also about two-thirds the way up the trail at Elk Knob State Park. I’m sure they are also in many other places, as it is very common.

One color that defines this time of year is yellow, due to the super abundance of goldenrods (Solidago sp.). There are several species here in the mountains, with some restricted to trails in the woods, and others to sunny locations along roadsides and in old-fields. They are at their peak flowering right now, and are beautiful in their own right, with the yellow flowers making a nice contrast to their dark green foliage. Note goldenrods do NOT make you sneeze, as their pollen is not what causes most people’s allergies at this time of the year. Rather, that is another plant, the giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida). So you can look at goldenrods without stress or discomfort!

Also blooming now are a variety of fall asters (Symphyotrichum sp.) which tend to grow along woodland edges in moist places. Often interspersed with them are gentians, with their deep blue, upright pointing flowers. These diminutive plants, often less than 6” tall, are nonetheless one of the most beautiful, not to mention unusual, flowers at this time of the year.

As noted earlier, this is the peak fruiting time for Mountain Ash (Sorbus americana) and for other berry shrubs (sorry, I don’t know the species photographed on my hike (see photo link below). If you do know the species, send me the name! Red spruce (Picea rubra) are fruiting now and their resinous cones are easy to see along the edges of the northern rock outcrop at Beacon Heights. If you happen to touch one and get that sticky resin on your fingers, a solvent such as finger nail polish remover, or pure alcohol, should remove it.

Despite the drought, there was enough mist and dew yesterday at Beacon Heights to wet up the lichens on the branches of trees and on the rocks. One of the most common leafy lichens is the rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata), which is a dull green when wet, and a blackish color when dry. The undersides of this lichen are covered in black fungal tissue and when it dries, it folds over to show that side to the sun, possibly because that black pigment acts as a sunscreen to protect the algae that grow in the lichen (which is an organism composed of a fungal host and algal symbiont). A recent paper in Science has found that many lichens may actually have two different fungal partners to go along with the algae, a discovery that has taken the lichen community by storm (there is such a thing as a community of lichen enthusiasts!). Here’s the link to the NY Times article on this (and if makes the NY Times, it must be BIG news, right?).
http://www.nytimes.com/…/lichen-symbiotic-relationship.html…

In conclusion, I predict that starting next weekend, we will start to see noticeable changes on the hillsides at the higher elevations, such as the summit of Grandfather and other high peaks here in the Southern Appalachians, and then it will begin moving downhill and the true fall leaf color season will get into gear! Remember, at an elevation of 3,000’ to about 4,500’, the peak will be early to mid-October, especially in mountains north of Asheville up to the Virginia border. Lower elevations will peak in late October, and below 2,000’, in early November even.

This week, I’m trying something new – posting my pictures on a shared Google drive. Here is that link: https://drive.google.com/…/fol…/0BxpSVO5IUz-EU1lNUHVzZEdtMDA
As this is an experiment, let me know if it works. If not, I’ll go back to posting on Facebook again, but as you know, that program has been giving me fits lately in terms of posting pictures.
Enjoy!!


Fall Color Report for the Week of September 11, 2016 from The Fall Color Guy

Another week has passed and there have been some noticeable changes in tree leaf color, but most of this is confined to urban trees and bushes and not those out on in the forests on the hillsides. As the pictures below confirm, the ornamental red maples are really starting to turn now. They have a very peculiar pattern of turning – first from the top, and often the east side, which then works downward with each passing day until the entire tree is a bright red. Some turn a lot earlier than others.

Notice this set of red maples in the parking lot at Galileo’s in Boone, where two of them are already at peak red color, while their neighbor is still all green. This may reflect their origin, with some coming from northern stock, and others from southern stock. Northern trees planted in the south tend to end their growing season earlier than southern trees because they are probably cueing in on daylength, and down here, the days are shorter in the summer than they are up north. Hence, northern trees planted in the south “think” it’s later in the season then it really is, and hence a time of year when it is usually colder, so they shut down prematurely. For you purists, I know trees don’t “think” in the sense that people do – it’s just an expression.

A lot of sugar maples are showing flagging now – that is, a single branch or a group of branches in one part of the crown begins to change to yellow or orange while the rest of the canopy is still a verdant green. I’ve even seen some trees in the woods doing this, and since most urban sugar maples are not selected for their fall color, this is just something this species does in the fall. Deserves more study!

Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is starting to turn its usual deep, burgundy red color. This common vine, which usually grows up tree trunks, can also be a nasty invasive in your garden, where it creeps along the ground (which probably gives the plant its name!) and grows over your shrubs and flowers. However, it does turn a beautiful color and when the tree leaves fall off the tree it is climbing, you get this interesting play of red against the dark gray trunk and deep blue sky. Quite beautiful, especially in the morning when the colors stand out the most.

Did you know that Charles Darwin studied this species? He did experiments on the tendrils that the plant uses to attach to its host, seeing how much weight they could support before detaching (up to 10 lbs if I remember correctly). This plant secretes a very strong adhesive compound from pads on the ends of its tendrils upon contact with a suitable host and uses it to attach itself to the tree. The tendrils also coil after they attach which provides flexibility so that the plant doesn’t come off its host in high winds. Pretty good for an organism without a brain!

Another tree that is just starting to turn is green ash. This tree (Fraxinus Americana), can turn a deep purple color, and I’ve seen some examples of it along U.S. 421 west of Boone. Other ashes will turn yellow. And winged burning bushes (Euonymous alatus), are turning now also, which seems a little early to me.

I am concerned about the long-range forecast for this month. I heard we were to have above average temperatures in September, but when I checked some sites on the web, they say we’ll have normal temperatures, which is good. However, we’re predicted to have only sporadic rain, and it’s getting quite dry here, with some sugar maples and birches dropping their leaves. If it continues dry, we may lose some fall color to premature leaf drop, including the bright yellow tulip poplars later on. The high temperatures, if they persist, could also reduce the intensity of the red pigments some trees produce (the anthocyanins) and that could lead to a duller fall color season. It could also delay the onset of colors, as some trees continue to hold on to their leaves later into the season if it’s warm. However, there’s still time for cool weather to set in and we may yet have a really good fall color season. The next three weeks will determine that!

Lastly, as you drive around the high country, you’ll notice an abundance of bright yellow flowers. Some of those are related to black-eyed Susans, such as sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale) while those with very small yellow flowers in clusters at the tops of herbs about 3 feet tall are Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis or S. altissima). Ironweed is also out now, with its incredibly deep purple flowers (Vernonia novaboracensis or V. gigantea).

For those contemplating where to go when they get to the High Country, here are some brief suggestions. For more details, contact the tourism sites here in the area, and Asheville area too.
I’d of course, suggest driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, anywhere, but the higher it is, the earlier you should visit, since colors start earlier the higher up you are. I’d suggest several of our state and national parks, including Grandfather Mt. (there is an access fee), Elk Knob State Park (free), Gorges State Park (free), and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’ll post updates on some of these as we get closer to fall color time. Also, I’d suggest the Pisgah National Forest, with its drives near Brevard and its abundant waterfalls. You can also see the Cradle of Forestry, where scientific forest management first started in the United States, on the property of the Vanderbilts, who at one time owned 125,000 acres of land near Asheville.

Have a great week!

Goldenrods in Vilas - Sept 11
Goldenrods in Vilas – Sept 11
Red and green maples in Boone. Sept 11.
Red and green maples in Boone. Sept 11.
Red Maple at Harris Teeter shopping center. Sept 11.
Red Maple at Harris Teeter shopping center. Sept 11.

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

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Fall Color Report for August 27, 2016

Well folks, I’M BACK!

This post marks the first official fall leaf color post for the 2016 season and I’m looking forward to yet another great fall color season. So once a week, watch for my posts.

One technical note: Although I consider myself technically savvy, I plead ignorance with regards to social media. I don’t use Twitter or Instagram (and if I do show up on those places, it’s totally by accident!). If you send me something via messaging, like Facebook messenger, I may or may not see it. So if you don’t get a prompt reply, it’s nothing personal. I just didn’t know you sent it. Best to send requests via regular postings, or email (neufeldhs@appstate.edu).

So, what’s up for this week? We are getting out of the dog-days of August (click HERE to see why they’re called that), and temperatures this week are about 10oF above normal, so that’s not good. But we’ve had sufficient rain in August to alleviate the drought conditions that were building up in July. That’s good for trees and may prevent too much premature leaf drop. What we need now is a switch to cooler temperatures, especially in September. Morning temperatures are dropping somewhat in the last week, so perhaps that portends a cooling trend.

Some trees begin turning color in August, such as sugar and red maples, and even dogwoods. Others, like buckeyes and birches and cherries start to drop leaves in late summer. But this happens every year, so I’m not worried. The maples do perplex me though, as they also hold on to their leaves late into the fall color season. I guess it reflects either genetic variation, local habitat conditions, or perhaps horticultural varieties that have been planted in cities (some red maples are bred for their fall color especially and may turn unusually early, particularly if they come from the north).

But the hillsides are still dominated by GREEN. If you want to watch the color change here in Boone, you can go to various webcams, but I suggest you watch our new webcam, which I installed this summer on the outskirts of Boone, and which is focused on a young forest. It is part of a nationwide forest monitoring program known as PhenoCam (http://richardsonlab.fas.harvard.edu/phenocam.html), run out of Harvard University, and which uses video images from cameras all around the country to determine if there are any changes in the timing of leaf flushing, duration, and loss in the fall. You can see the images for our Boone site at this web address:https://phenocam.sr.unh.edu/webcam/sites/asuhighlands/ and for all sites at this website: https://phenocam.sr.unh.edu/webcam/gallery/. Our new webcam is courtesy of a National Science Foundation Grant that my colleague, Dr. Zack Murrell, and I received this year in conjunction with three other schools: UNC-Asheville, Warren Wilson College, and East Tennessee State University. Each of those universities also has a webcam which is part of the PhenoCam network. Your tax dollars doing great environmental research!! Thanks!

For those wondering when to see colors, know that they start first at the highest elevations and then work their way down with time. At Grandfather Mt. State Park, trees will begin changing in late September at the upper elevations, and by mid-October will be peaking at about 3,500’ elevation, and at lower elevations, such as around Asheville at 2,400’, in late October. You can get a rough idea of when colors peak by going to my fall color page at this address and accessing the fall color map:http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors and for map:http://biology.appstate.edu/f…/fall-color-map-north-carolina.

That’s about it for now. See you next week!

 


For the 5th year in a row WataugaRoads.com & WataugaOnline.com is teaming up with Dr. Howard Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University, better known as The Fall Color Guy to provide information as the colors start changing.

 On Wednesday (August 24, 2016) WataugaOnline.com ask Dr. Neufeld about predictions for the upcoming fall season, and his full reply is below:

“I’m seeing some early color in the maples, and some leaf drop in birches, but nothing out of the ordinary. I don’t think the drought was severe enough to cause major problems. So, I think we’re on for another good fall color season. Mornings are starting to get cooler, so we’re entering the typical fall weather patterns. Looking good so far!”

Dr.Neufeld shared some thoughts just before previous fall seasons that are still relevant for this, or any, fall season:

As for wet weather, there have been some publications on the impacts of weather on fall color (especially timing, not so much quality). Precipitation has only minor effects on timing in the fall. Temperature is more important. So, at this point, I don’t see anything to make me think that fall colors will be adversely affected, either in timing or quality.

What happens in mid- to late August and in September, temperature-wise, will be more important, especially for quality (notably the intensity of the red colors)”.

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.

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.

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

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

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)”.

Fall Color 101


2015 UPDATES

For the 4th year in a row WataugaRoads.com is teaming up with Dr. Howard Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University, better known as The Fall Color Guy to provide information as the colors start changing.

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

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Fall Color Report for Week of October 25, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook :

Regarding fall leaf colors – I was pleasantly surprised at how bright the colors were along U.S. 421 in Deep Gap up to the intersection with US 221 and the Blue Ridge Parkway. As one heads down in elevation going east on US 421, the colors are spectacular down to about 2,000′. Very nice.

A drive along the Parkway from US 421 to Blowing Rock, or north to Laurel Springs would be excellent this week. Of course, the weather may not cooperate, as the remnants of Hurricane Patricia are moving in.

In the Boone/Blowing Rock area, the oaks are looking good, as I mentioned yesterday. But what surprised me was the degree of color lower down in the foothills near North Wilkesboro. More color than I had expected. Even as low down as Lexington there was a lot of color showing already. Good viewing everywhere it seems!

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

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

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

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Fall Color Report for Week of October 11, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

Today, the Fall Color Guy and his daughter Gabriela scouted out the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Thunderhill Overlook just outside Blowing Rock down to the Chestoa Overlook about 10 miles below Linville. It was a gorgeous day, and the Parkway was full up with leaf lookers.

This is THE PEAK WEEK for the Blowing Rock to Grandfather Mountain section of the Parkway. The same might be said for the Cashiers/Highlands area, according to my contacts down that way. Colors have exploded out over the weekend, even despite the dreary, rainy Saturday that we had. Luckily for us, there was little or no wind on Saturday, so while some leaves did come down, many stayed up, and are now turning beautiful colors.

One notable color addition this week is the black gum tree (Nyssa sylvatica). This tree turns a lovely deep red color that complements the reds of the maples, sourwoods and sassafras trees. Today, the colors were really spectacular along the Blue Ridge Parkway from below Holloway Mountain road down to the Beacon Heights parking lot. I saw a lot of reds splashed against a background of brilliant orange and yellow. Despite all the bad weather we’ve had, the trees have held their ground, and are now showing us all a magnificent display of color.

Forests below 3,000’ are still predominantly green, and so they will color up in the next two weeks, but right now, the peak color is from about 5,000’ or so down to about 3,000’. If you head south of Linville, the colors become more muted, with fewer red trees and more yellow ones (due to a change in species composition over to hickories, ash and oak). When you get past Little Switzerland, heading south toward Mt. Mitchell State Park, the colors begin to pick up again, and from there to Craggy Gardens, you’ll have great views this week up to next weekend. The same can be said for the area south of Waynesville to the Waterrock Knob area of the Parkway.

The Smokies are still working up to their peak color, and most of the lower elevations are still predominantly green. They will work up to their peak color in the next two weeks, and Gatlinburg should be at peak color at the end of this month.

You can check out the status of the fall color there at this website:http://www.nps.gov/grsm/planyourvisit/fallcolor.htm .

You can also check out their Facebook page:https://www.facebook.com/GreatSmokyMountainsNPS

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

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Fall Color Report for Week of October 4, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

That pesky low pressure system that has been plaguing the southeast is still with us this week, but today it seems to be showing signs of dissipating. For one brief instant, late this afternoon, I actually saw the sun! We’ve had something like 12 straight days with clouds/mist/rain, exactly the wrong weather for good fall leaf colors. However, the saving grace is that this all occurred when the majority of trees in the High Country were still green, and were holding onto their leaves tightly. Thus, even though there is a lot of debris on the ground from the rains and winds, many of the trees, especially those at mid-elevations (2,500’ to 4,000’, i.e., Boone/Blowing Rock area) still have their leaves. And because the weather will improve starting tomorrow, getting sunnier and warmer, I predict that those trees will quickly begin turning color.

However, I have to be honest – after my travels today, I was amazed at just how many leaves have been taken off the trees. In some places, I’d estimate 20%-40% of the leaves had been knocked down, mainly from just two species: yellow birches and tulip poplars. There are some maple and magnolia leaves on the ground too, but the birches and poplars probably make up 90% of the fallen leaves.

The other important observation from today is that in the Boone/Blowing Rock area, many of the hillsides are now 50% to 70% colored up, much more than I expected. To me this means that as the weather improves and gets sunnier and drier, colors will rapidly approach their peak for the High Country, perhaps by the end of this coming week and into that trailing weekend (Oct 8 – 10th), with good color still persisting into that following week (Oct 11-15th). I’m not seeing a lot of reds (which is what happens when it gets cloudy/rainy), so I’m inclined to knock down my prediction from being an exceptional year to just a very good year.

Higher elevations were already starting to turn color prior to this episode of bad weather, especially around Grandfather Mt., and at other sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway, such as Graveyards, Waterrock Knob, and Craggy Gardens. However, if you go to those sites, and the leaves are gone, they still offer wonderful trails for hiking to overlooks, and from them you can view the fall leaf colors at the lower elevations.

This past week, the birches really began yellowing, along with the tulip poplars and magnolias. By the way, magnolias and tulip poplars are closely related and among the more ancient flowering plants, so it’s not surprising that they both change colors at near the same time, and that both turn yellow, although the magnolias quickly morph over into a lovely chocolate brown.

Our sugar, mountain, and red maples are also turning colors now. Mountain maple, a lesser known maple species, turns an interesting orange/red color. It is found mainly at higher elevations, and is a prominent species along the road in Grandfather Mountain State Park. It doesn’t get as big as some of the other maples. Sugar maples can turn a variety of colors, ranging from yellow to orange to red, while red maples essentially produce just red leaves. Along U.S. 221 between Pineola and Linville are some really large sugar maples, just off the highway, that are turning a nice yellow color now.

Sourwoods, if not already a deep burgundy red, are switching over to that color now, as are sassafras, which like sugar maples, can have every color on them at one time. Hickories tend to turn a dull yellow then brown, and I’m afraid they are not one of my favorite fall color trees. A bright spot in the forests, at eye level, is witch hazel, an interesting understory shrub that is common throughout the southern Appalachians. Not only do the leaves turn a golden yellow, speckled with brown, but it is one of the only plants that flowers at this time of the year. The flowers are composed of curly yellow filaments which are the petals. Its pollinator is a small moth.

Stay dry and have a great week!

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

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Fall Color Report for Week of September 27, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

Starting on Thursday of this past week, a low pressure system became stalled off the east coast of the Carolinas, bringing substantial amounts of rain and wind all the way into the mountains of western North Carolina and Tennessee, plus upstate South Carolina and Georgia. However, the cloud cover also moderated low nighttime temperatures, and while it has been cool during the days, it hasn’t been getting as cold at night like it did prior to these rains. When there are clear skies, infra-red radiation (heat) can escape into space, resulting in cold mornings.

As a result, the development of fall leaf color has slowed down this past week, something that I had mentioned could happen. This means that we are probably back on a regular schedule for peak leaf colors, meaning that colors will peak during the first week of October at high elevations (4,500’ or above), around mid-October (the 10th through the 16th from 4,500’ to 2,500’), and during the last week of October in the Asheville area (~2,000 – 2,500’).

It has rained continuously since Thursday of this last week, and the weather forecast for the entire coming week is somewhat bleak – at least a 30% to 50% chance of rain every day until Friday (even thunderstorms on Tuesday!), with moderate temperatures every day. This will probably keep the rate of fall leaf color development at a slow pace, but not stop it. So, be patient. The rain, which we need, will abate by the following weekend, and that weekend should be the first really good one for full-fledged fall leaf color viewing. One thing in our favor is that all this rain has occurred prior to the leaf color peak, when the leaves are still held on the trees fairly strongly. So while some leaves have come down during this recent stormy spate, the majority that have not yet turned color are still attached tightly to the trees. So, I’m optimistic that we’ll have plenty of leaves left for a great fall color display in the next few weeks.

Fall Color Photos from Grandfather Mountain (Monday Sept 21-Wed Sept 23)

Although autumn colors are just beginning to arrive on Grandfather Mountain, a few areas, such as Cliffside Overlook, are already providing opportunities for photographers, such as Monty Combs, to capture colorful images of foliage at higher elevations. Photo by Jim Morton | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Although autumn colors are just beginning to arrive on Grandfather Mountain, a few areas, such as Cliffside Overlook, are already providing opportunities for photographers, such as Monty Combs, to capture colorful images of foliage at higher elevations. Photo by Jim Morton | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
 Fog meets bog in this photo shot in Linville Gap, just down the road from Grandfather Mountain. As cooler temperatures persist, with leaves following suit, Grandfather’s naturalists posit that autumn 2015 seems to have started a week earlier than anticipated. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fog meets bog in this photo shot in Linville Gap, just down the road from Grandfather Mountain. As cooler temperatures persist, with leaves following suit, Grandfather’s naturalists posit that autumn 2015 seems to have started a week earlier than anticipated. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall color peeks through at Linville Peak, just across Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge. A sign of cool weather, blueberry bushes turn a vibrant red, with sassafras and sedge grass adding some golden hues to the fall fray. Linville Peak sits at 5,295 feet above sea level, offering visitors a spectacular vista of autumn in the High Country. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall color peeks through at Linville Peak, just across Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge. A sign of cool weather, blueberry bushes turn a vibrant red, with sassafras and sedge grass adding some golden hues to the fall fray. Linville Peak sits at 5,295 feet above sea level, offering visitors a spectacular vista of autumn in the High Country. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Fall Color Report for Week of September 20, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

It has been delightfully cool here in the High Country for the past 10 days or so, especially in the mornings. It has also been very sunny. And as I’ve said for many years, if you get cool, sunny weather in September, you’re headed for good fall leaf color. And we’re getting it! So, if this keeps up for the next few weeks, we should be headed for a really, really, good fall leaf color season!

Color has burst out this week here (and burst is the appropriate word!). Last Sunday, I said the word to describe the forests then was “green”. But now, just one week later, the hillsides are showing color, some of it quite good. The best color so far is between Grandfather Mountain and Rough Ridge along the Blue Ridge Parkway. For some reason, this area always develops the brightest colors, and does so first in the High Country. I’m not sure why, but every year it develops before other areas. So, right now that is the best section of the Parkway to see some good color, although I was told by one person that north of Doughton Park on the Parkway (toward Virginia), color was good along that stretch of the road. Price Lake is starting to show color also, which is just south of Blowing Rock.

What trees are showing now? Yellow buckeyes are losing their leaves now in droves, and they turn a mucky-yellow/brown. Buckeyes are among the first trees to leaf out and among the first to lose their leaves in the fall. Way back, when I had dark black curly hair, a friend and I even published a scientific paper documenting this pattern on some understory buckeyes. The yellow buckeyes are producing their seeds now (the buckeyes) which make great souvenirs, but don’t eat them – they’re toxic.

Maples have started turning, and not just in town, but in the woods too. Sourwoods are already mostly red, sumacs are starting to turn along the roadsides, and pin cherrys are orangy/red now. Some of the tulip poplars are showing hints of yellow, but the Fraser magnolias are ahead of them and already turning yellow before they shift over to chocolate brown. Witch hazels are just beginning their transition to yellow leaves, and they are also blooming now (one of the only shrubs that flowers in the fall season). Sassafras are starting their color transition, and you can find leaves that are yellow, orange, or red, all on the same tree! Lots of shrubs are turning now, especially the huckleberrys and blueberrys, which are a spectacular red at this time of the year.

If I were to rate the degree of color change now in the High Country, I’d say it would be a 1 on a scale of 10. Although this week may cause some to think the colors will be early this year, I caution that a warm up in the next few weeks could delay it and put it back on schedule. So, at this point, I’m still predicting that peak color in the Boone/Blowing Rock area will still be mid-October.

I’ll post some observations for the southern mountains in the next day or so. So, keep reading and we’ll hope to see you all sometime this fall.

Fall Color Report for Week of September 13, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

Still green out there! But! This morning it was 48 F at my house, and probably several degrees colder at the higher elevations on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A cool front has moved in and dropped temperatures substantially, which is good for fall color development. But there hasn’t been much change in the leaves since last week, although a few plants are showing color prominently now, especially up on the ridges near Grandfather Mountain.

Today, I hiked the Rough Ridge trail, which is just north of the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you haven’t done that trail, I highly recommend it. You do have to watch your footing in places, but the dangerous overlooks (at least some of them!) are bounded by a cable and I didn’t get too close to the edges. In my next post, I will put up an album of pictures from today’s walk.

So, what’s changing now? In town, the planted red maples, often a horticultural variety that emphasizes their brilliant red fall colors, are really starting to show. These trees first turn red in their upper half, creating a bicolored tree for a while, before the colors move to the lower half. The sourwoods are also changing to red, and of course the dogwoods are already there. On the Rough Ridge trail, the huckleberries are starting to turn deep red, as are some trees that unfortunately, I don’t know what are (help if you can, see the album following this post!). Chestnuts (Aesculus octandra, not American chestnut) are dropping their leaves now, and are always among the first trees to do so each fall.

That’s about it for now. With this cool front moving in, I expect to see color changes pick up in the next two weeks. I’ll keep you posted!!

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

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Fall Color Report for Week of September 6, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

The word for this week is …. “green”. Although this is the Labor Day weekend, the plants are still laboring and by that, I mean still doing photosynthesis and converting carbon dioxide into sugars and starches. However, there are a few plants that have started to turn early, so if you come to the High Country in the next few weeks, you’ll be able to see a little color. But for now, the hillsides are still dominated by the color green.

The main turning plants are some maples (just a few though), and huckleberries (on the rock outcrops mainly) and some sassafras which are showing orange and red coloration. Most everything else is still green. I did see a Viburnum beginning to turn its usual deep orange, but it was an isolated occurrence, and although I saw one patch of red Galax, all the rest were still deep green.

It’s been warm during the days while the mornings have been cool. These are near perfect conditions for a good fall color season. I’ve noticed a few tulip poplars showing some yellow, which may indicate some effect of the earlier dry period that we had in July, and our dogwoods continue to deepen their burgundy red leaves even more. But everything else looks great, and so at this point in time, I’m optimistic that we should have good fall leaf color in October.

I’ll post an album of my best pictures from today’s hike on the Beacon Heights trail. This is a short, but highly recommended trail, right off the Blue Ridge Parkway east of Grandfather Mountain. The rock outcrops afford great views of the forests in the Wilson Creek drainage to the east and there are abundant witch hazel, one of the few plants that flowers in the fall.

So, until next week, enjoy the rest of your Labor Day Holiday!

Fall Color Report for Week of August 30, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

As the end of August approaches, we’re starting to see the very beginnings of fall color, but only sporadically. The forests are still quite green and lush, but the sentinels, those early turning species, are letting us know that bigger things are in store over the next few weeks. Burning bushes are starting to turn their vivid red (Euonymus alata), and dogwoods (Cornus florida) are slowly turning a deep burgundy red. There are a few scattered sugar and red maples that are turning now, but these the exceptions, rather than the rule. In Boone, along Rivers Street, many of the sugar maples turn early, but I think this is due to stresses resulting from the steam line running along the road, plus road salt from last winter, and compacted soils. Finally, two of our most notable vine species, poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus virginiana) are starting to turn. Poison ivy turns an orangy-red color, while Virginia creeper turns a brilliant red. Because they turn so early, the trees that they climb up are still green, so it’s a nice display of Christmasy colors here early in the fall color season.

A recent trip to Howard’s Knob this past Thursday, which is 4,400’ in elevation, or about 1,000’ higher than the town of Boone, showed the forests there to still be very green. I’ll check out Grandfather Mt. this week, because it’s nearly 1,500′ higher than Howards Knob, and colors will start earlier there than just about anywhere else here in the High Country. Fall colors begin to develop first at higher elevations (which are colder), and then they move downhill, about 1,000′ every 7-10 days later. The lack of color change at Howards Knob shows that we’re still at least a week or two away from wide-scale color changes here in the Southern Appalachians.

As I noted in several previous postings, the weather over the next four weeks (essentially September) can have a large influence on the timing and quality of fall leaf color. For the upcoming week, the situation is mixed – there is a chance of rain nearly every day (but except for Monday, is less than 40%). Temperatures will be in the high 70s and lows around 60F, which is not too bad. If morning temperatures keep dropping through September, that will be good news for fall color development. Here’s the official National Weather Service forecast site: http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php

As you may or may not know, there is a strong El Niño forming off the west coast of South America. An El Niño event occurs when westward winds slow down off the west coast of South America. This reduces upwelling of deep ocean cold waters and as a result, the upper Pacific Ocean heats up more than normal. This year NOAA predicts a strong El Niño, with heating of up to 2C more than normal (or about 3.6F).

These events often cause weather changes around the world, and can affect our fall and winter weather patterns. The NOAA El Niño prediction center says this about effects on the United States: “Across the contiguous United States, temperature and precipitation impacts associated with El Niño are expected to remain minimal during the remainder of the Northern Hemisphere summer and increase into the late fall and winter (the 3-month seasonal outlook will be updated on Thursday August 20th). El Niño will likely contribute to a below normal Atlantic hurricane season….”

The Climate Prediction says that past El Niño effects result in warmer, but drier falls in the Southeastern United States. See these maps:

Temperature:
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/…/…/enso/elnino/UStrank/ond.gif

Precipitation:
http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/…/…/enso/elnino/UStrank/ond.gif

So, while mild drought favors more intense red fall leaf colors, warm temperatures have the opposite effect, and can delay the onset of peak colors. However, when I review my notes for past years, I don’t see the peak timing varying by that much. It may be delayed a few days when warm, or advanced when cold, but only by 3-4 days. So generally, the peak occurs nearly the same time each year, which for the Boone area, is mid-October (12th-16th usually), the last week of September or first week of October for the highest elevations on Grandfather Mt. and the last week of October in the Asheville area, which is at an elevation of about 2,400’.

Happy End of August!

Fall Color Report for Week of August 23rd, 2015 from The Fall Color Guy. Check out The Fall Color Guy on Facebook and at http://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors:

Although it is technically still “summer”, there are signs that the trees are getting ready for fall and winter. Here in the High Country (otherwise known as the Paradise of the East), the dogwoods have already started turning their deep red. The photo attached is of three trees growing across the street from my house. They are among the first trees to turn each year. Some red and sugar maples, which are also early turners, have begun to turn orange-red or yellow, although this is quite sporadic in the forests. I’ve noticed that the same trees always turn color early each year, and so it’s either genetic, or, they are growing in a spot that stresses them and induces early leaf coloration.
Of course, the black locusts are now almost totally defoliated (those are the numerous brown trees you now see lining the highways), but this is due to an insect known as the black locust leaf miner (a mining insect eats out the leaf between the upper and lower surfaces, like a miner tunneling through the soil). It’s a native insect and the trees come back each year without problem. We do have to contend in some areas with the tulip poplar weevil – see my previous posting on that. But it’s not widespread, and shouldn’t be a problem in most areas.

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2015 UPDATES

For the 4th year in a row WataugaRoads.com is teaming up with Dr. Howard Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University, better known as The Fall Color Guy to provide information as the colors start changing.

 Unlike in 2013 with the record setting rain, and in 2014 with much cooler temperatures, it appears that 2015 is just right. Recently WataugaRoads.com ask Dr. Neufeld about predictions for the upcoming fall season, and his full reply is below.

“As for predictions, at least at this point, I don’t see any weather problems – it’s not too dry or too wet, although it has been hot. The one new development has been the explosion of the population of yellow poplar leaf miners, which have been attacking these trees, turning their leaves a bronze/brown color. This is a native insect and for some reason, especially along the I-40 corridor from Old Fort to Asheville, they are very abundant. It looks like the trees are turning color for the fall there. I confirmed the cause with the US Forest Service, and it’s also widespread, going as far north as West Virginia this year. Otherwise, I don’t see any major flags against having a good fall leaf color season this year.”

Dr.Neufeld shared some thoughts just before previous fall seasons that are still relevant for this, or any, fall season:

As for wet weather, there have been some publications on the impacts of weather on fall color (especially timing, not so much quality). Precipitation has only minor effects on timing in the fall. Temperature is more important. So, at this point, I don’t see anything to make me think that fall colors will be adversely affected, either in timing or quality.

What happens in mid- to late August and in September, temperature-wise, will be more important, especially for quality (notably the intensity of the red colors)”.

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.

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.

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

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

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)”.

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