The word is: green! Nearly all of the western mountains are still quite green. There is a hint of color on the way, with red and sugar maples starting to show some color on isolated branches and branch tips. Dogwoods have been turning red since mid-August, and sourwoods are coloring up now. Pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica) leaves are turning a deep orange-red and dropping early now. This week I ventured up Grandfather Mountain just south of Boone and Blowing Rock. This isolated mountain in the Blue Ridge is the highest in the area, with Mt. Mitchell, about 60 miles south, the highest peak in eastern North America. Since colors turn first at higher elevations, I thought it prudent to scout out what was happening on this peak. The answer: not much yet. A few trees, as noted in the previous paragraph, are turning, but the majority of trees are still quite green. There are many wildflowers blooming right now, so for you wildflower enthusiasts, this is a good time to catch the last of the lot before it gets cold. The weather has been cooperating lately. We’ve had clear blue skies, cool, crisp mornings, and no rain to speak of. If these conditions keep up through September, then we are heading for a good fall color season. But what happens in the next three weeks is critical. If it is warm and/or rainy, expect the peak colors, especially reds, to be duller and later occurring. If cool and sunny, expect brighter colors that will be on time. On time means between Oct. 10th-20th here in the southern Appalachians of NC. A week earlier at higher elevations, and a week later at lower ones.