Forests of a Century Ago – The Dominance of American Chestnuts

Sep 9, 2015
Forests of a Century Ago – The Dominance of American ChestnutsAn Essay by The Fall Color Guy – Howard S. NeufeldSeptember 5, 2015Were you to have gone to the mountains to view fall leaf colors in 1904, your experience would have differed greatly from what you see today. For starters, there wouldn’t have been as many roads (the Blue Ridge Parkway was still 3 decades away from being built), most of the high country roads would have been dirt (50% of the roads in Watauga County, NC, where I live...

An Update on Whether Climate Change Will Affect Fall Leaf Color Displays

Aug 30, 2013
A number of years ago, I wrote an essay on the potential impact climate change might have on fall leaf color displays (see  This was based on a review of the scientific literature at that time, and also on anecdotal information about how the weather and climate affect color and duration and timing.  Now, researchers at Harvard University have published the first scientific analysis of the impacts...

Will Global Climate Change Affect Fall Colors?

Sep 21, 2011
Recently the Washington Post reported that previous estimates of global warming may all be greatly underestimated, according to a new United Nations Science Compendium. Robert Correll, chair of the Climate Action Initiative, which helped write the report, suggests that even if countries adopt all of the climate policies now being debated in Copenhagen, global temperatures will still rise by 6.3oF. This is twice what the Nobel Prize-winning International Panel on Climate Change in 2007 predicted...

Why Is Red Fall Color Nearly Absent in Northern Europe but Prevalent in North America?

Sep 16, 2011
For anyone who has ever been in Scandinavia in the fall (Finland, Norway, Sweden, and nearby countries) you would have been impressed by the fall color display of the trees, just as we are here in North America. But one thing would be missing that we take for granted in the United States and Canada, and that is the color red. Trees in northern Europe are dominated by yellow and orange fall color, and relatively few turn red. In fact, only four northern European tree species have red fall color...

How Hot was it This Summer and Will That Affect Fall Leaf Color?

Sep 9, 2011
This past week, the High Country was impacted by the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee. Anywhere from 2-9” of rain was dumped on the area between Monday and Wednesday, with most of it falling on Tuesday. Creeks overflowed their banks, and one couple was trapped in their car near the mall and had to be rescued by the fire department, an event recorded and broadcast on HLN! Meanwhile, in Texas, there was no relief from the long drought that has devastated the state. In fact, the wind...

The Economics of Fall Foliage Tourism in North Carolina

Aug 29, 2011
A number of years ago while I was having lunch in my favorite restaurant in Boone, I happened to have overhead a young couple at the next table complaining about not being able to find any hotel rooms to stay in that night, and they were contemplating having to hoof it all the way back to Wilmington as a result. Looking the two of them over, I concluded they were probably academics, since both sported T-shirts from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, a premier research facility located in...

On the Hidden Colors in Leaves: What are the Functions of Those Yellow and Orange Pigments We See in the Fall?

Oct 29, 2010
It's sometimes hard to remember that the beauty we see in fall colors is the result of the death of a tree's leaves. That there can be such joy in celebrating the death of something is a curious aspect of life worthy of a philosopher's attention. But even without the philosophical implications, we can learn much about life by studying death. In fact, when you think about in the larger context, every essay about fall colors is about death in some form. Today's essay is no exception....

Why the Veins in Leaves Stay Green Longer than the Blades during Fall Senescence

Oct 18, 2010
Introduction to the Situation Check out this photo of a senescing oak leaf that I took last Saturday, October 8, 2010 along the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina. Note the unique coloration pattern whereby the veins have remained quite green, but the leaf blade has turned yellow. This is a common occurrence as leaves turn colors in the fall, yet is rarely commented upon, and, as we shall see, the mechanisms responsible for this pattern are still poorly understood. Why Do Leaves...

Featured Faculty

For the Fall 2016 installment of our Featured Faculty series, we sat down with Dr. Mary Kinkel, an Assistant Professor in the Biology Department, who specializes in Developmental Biology. Her philosophy of teaching and a short description of her research make for fascinating read! 

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