Fall Color Report

Post date: 09/22/2021
One of the aspects of fall color that I have tried to explain in past posts is that trees cue in on three major factors that determine when their leaves will turn color and senesce (meaning to die): these are daylength, temperature, and precipitation. Regarding daylength, once we get past the summer solstice on June 21, where we have the longest day of the year, daylength continually shortens until we get to the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. In Boone, the winter solstice will occur at 10:59 am on Tuesday, December 21. After that date, the days will continually lengthen until...
Post date: 09/22/2021
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...
Post date: 09/02/2021
We are now about six weeks away from what should be peak fall color along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Southern Appalachian Mountains, at elevations between 3,000-4,500’. Right now, the forests are mostly still green, although after my excursion today on the Parkway, I did see scattered instances of trees starting to turn color. These trees seem ahead of schedule compared to past years, but I don’t think fall color will be unusually early this year. I drove the BRP between Blowing Rock and the Linn Cove Viaduct today. This section is one of the most popular parts of the Parkway, so when...
Post date: 08/13/2021
This is the first of my fall color reports for 2021. Of course, starting off in August there isn’t a lot of color development yet, but there are some isolated cases among urban trees, which always begin changing color before trees in the woods. In particular, urban red maples, dogwoods and sourwoods, as well as some stressed sugar maples are coloring up now, but don’t panic, as the major fall color display will still occur in mid-October. My graduate student, Claire Martin, is studying how urban red maples, including the Armstrong and Autumn Blaze cultivars, develop their fall colors,...
Post date: 10/26/2020
Yesterday I traveled north up the Blue Ridge Parkway from US 421 in Watauga County, going through Ashe County before ending up in Alleghany County. This section of the Parkway, while popular, is less traveled than the congested section between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain. At 8:30 am, I was about the only person on the road, and it seemed I had the entire Parkway to myself. In addition, with the sun at a relatively low angle, I was able to take some photographs with great color saturation. A polarizing filter helps to bring out the colors, so if you have a camera, I’d invest in one...
Post date: 10/19/2020
This week I took the road west and headed on up to Roan Mountain on the border of NC and TN. Here, you can get on the Appalachian Trail and see some of the most majestic peaks in the southern Appalachians. This is a popular hiking and camping location and you will meet lots of people hiking both north and south on the trail. When you get to the top, at Carver’s Gap, the elevation is 5,512’, with peaks on either side going up another 300-500’, with the summit of Roan Mt at 6,285’. This place can get crowded, making it hard to find a parking place, but if you get there early, no problem. I...
Post date: 10/13/2020
I went out on the Blue Ridge Parkway today to see how the leaves survived the storms that rolled in on Friday and stayed until Monday. Luckily, for us, the rains were fairly gentle and there was no wind to speak of, so while a goodly number of leaves did fall off over the weekend, most remained on the trees. Which means that they are there and showing off some great colors now! Today was a spectacular leaf looking day – skies were clear blue beginning late morning and the leaf colors were bright and varied.Today in my opinion was peak color day on the Blue Ridge Parkway from Boone Fork, south...
Post date: 10/13/2020
Colors are peaking now along the Blue Ridge Parkway at elevations 4,000’ and above, but the remnants of Hurricane Delta also are moving into the region. Today we had steady, but gentle rains, with no appreciable wind, but it still took down some leaves. However, earlier in the day, the views were very good and lot of people were out leaf looking. Colors were near peak and it was quite spectacular compared to years past! Had it not rained, this would have been one of the two best weekends this season to view the leaves. I did get out early this morning when the rain was lighter and took the...
Post date: 10/06/2020
Sorry for being a day late, but I ran out of hours yesterday! I need more than 24 hrs to get everything done in a day!I’ve divided my report into two parts: one focuses on the urban trees that are showing great colors now, and the other shows off what I found on Sunday at Beacon Heights and along the Parkway.The most common urban tree for fall color is the red maple, and most are in full color now in Boone. There are numerous varieties available that are marketed by nurseries with names like Autumn Blaze, October Glory, Red Sunset, and Brandywine. Autumn Blaze and Red Sunset are probably the...
Post date: 09/28/2020
Wow, somebody hit the color switch this week! From Thursday to Sat, the colors just popped out all around Boone and along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This cool weather has really jump started the fall color season for us this year. Between Boone and Grandfather Mountain there is noticeable color, maybe even up to 20% in some places, and it is progressing quickly. The next two days will be warm, but then after some rain on Monday and Tuesday, we are supposed to get some of our coldest weather yet, and that should push the trees to color up quickly after that happens. I got up early today and...