Fall Color Report for Week of September 23, 2018

After a week off due to Hurricane Florence I am back on this last day of summer with a new report on fall leaf colors. How quickly the summer came and went! Fall begins at exactly 9:40 pm on Saturday evening, as I write this. And it is amazing how the colors have come out just in the last two days, as if Mother Nature has flipped the color switch on this week, just in time for fall. Two days ago, you would have been hard pressed to find much color in the woods. But today, it is apparent all throughout the High Country. It is absolutely astounding just how quickly the trees can produce color!grandfather


From Boone, down to Grandfather Mountain (as far as I got today), there is notable color on the hillsides. I’d say about 5-10% of the landscape is showing color. Most of the trees contributing to this early display are red, sugar and mountain maples, dogwoods, sourwoods, sassafras, and black birch. Tulip poplar trees are turning yellow now, as are the magnolias.


This sudden display of leaf color does not mean we will have early colors this year. It is still abnormally warm, which tends to delay the onset of more color. However, the nights are beginning to cool off some, and that’s good for color development.


May it was the few days of low night temperatures right after the hurricane that triggered the current color display. Usually we see some early color display at about this time in the season, but even so, it still peaks in mid-October. At this time, I’m still prognosticating that it will peak between Oct 12 and Oct 16 in the Boone area, week or so earlier at higher elevations.


If you are at higher elevations, the peak will be the first week or so in October. Sometimes it’s even in the last week of September if it gets really cool between now and then. Graveyards and Craggy Gardens, south and north of Asheville, respectively, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, seem to peak very early each year, often the last week of September. I’ll know more about those sites next weekend, when I do my transect from the Smokies to Boone. I’ll be stopping at Waterrock Knob, Sam Knob, the Balsams (highest point on the Parkway), Graveyards, Craggy Gardens, and Chestoa Overlook as well as Linville Falls.


I’ll post an album of photos from today’s foray to Grandfather Mountain. Today was Girl Scout Day, so there lots of young women on the mountain learning about nature. Raptors (hawks and other predatory birds) are now migrating south to South America where they will spend the winter. Some head to the Amazon, others to the Andes in Peru. Each year, volunteers sit near the swinging bridge at the top of Grandfather Mt. and record how many raptors migrate south, and which species are migrating. Yesterday, they recorded over 850 birds. Several years ago they counted over 10,000 birds in one day!


That about brings you up to date. In conclusion, colors are starting to show on the hillsides and to quell any fears about Hurricane Florence, I am confident that it had only minimal effects on the trees. So if the weather starts cooling off (which it is supposed to do next week), we should be in good shape and have an excellent fall color season. Hope your week went well.