Fall Color Report for Week of October 6, 2018



The warm weather has persisted all week and is predicted to continue into next week. So far, this is the warmest fall on record for the mountains of North Carolina. Because of this, the fall foliage colors are very much delayed. I went hiking at Elk Knob State Park and it was still mostly green, even at the top, which is at 5,520’ elevation.


I’m worried that if the warm weather carries on for another week or two it might result in a very poor fall color season. Already, some trees have dropped their leaves without changing color. Others may do the same over the next two weeks. The shorter days may push some trees to begin changing color even if temperatures main elevated, but it may result in a display of lower quality.


As you can tell, I’m frustrated at this point because we have never had weather like this before, so I have no precedent upon which to make my prognostications. We’ll just have to watch together what happens. The longer it remains warm, the less confident I am that we will have a good fall color season.


At Elk Knob, the forests were still 95% green. Some birches are starting to yellow, as are sugar and mountain maple, witch hobble and some magnolias. But the beech trees, which dominate along much of the trail to the top, are mostly green. Only at the very top have they started to change to yellow and brown.


I then drove down to the Linn Cove Viaduct on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the story was much the same. Color is mostly absent, with the exception of an isolated ridge here and there. Individual trees, such as maples, birches and cherries are starting to turn, but most other trees are still green. Sourwoods though, are peaking this week, so if you see a deep red colored tree, it is most likely that species.


In town, the ornamental red maples are showing good color at the tops, and some sugar maples are turning yellow/orange. But aside from this, not much else is apparent. It is greener at this date in October than in any previous year that I can remember.


On a more positive not, we will have more color next weekend than this weekend. Next weekend is usually when our peak occurs, but it will not be the peak this year. If the weather stays as is, peak color times will arrive one week to 10 days later than normal. Should we get a cool down, the colors can come on very quickly, and the trees could even catch up to their normal schedule, but the long-range forecast is not calling for that.


I have just learned from some Fall Color Guy readers that the forecast is for temperatures to drop significant after about a week, maybe even in to the 30s. That should really jump start the colors, so let’s hope that happens!