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Appalachian State’s Leaf Color Expert Says Cool September Will Result in Vibrant Leaf Colors

By Harley Nefe

Appalachian State University Biology professor Howard Neufeld, better known as the “Fall Color Guy” on Facebook, is working on his upcoming leaf season guide for autumn in the High Country. He studies physiological plant ecology, plant water relations, ecosystem ecology, and air pollution effects on plants.

On a recent Facebook page on September 3, Neufeld said that if the temperatures do cool off, it will be “good news for the upcoming fall leaf colors.”

In the most recent update on his fall colors website, posted on August 31, he expects that the weather over the next four weeks will determine the timing and quality of the fall leaves for 2020.

“If it begins to cool off, especially at night, and stays mostly sunny, we should expect an excellent display of colors, particularly among those trees that turn red, such as red maple, red oak, sourwood, and black gum. If it is unusually warm, and again, if that warming occurs at night, then the peak time for red-leafed species will be delayed and they will be duller than normal,” Neufeld said.

As of now, Neufeld is predicting a peak leaf color between October 12 and October 18 for most of the High Country at elevations between 3,000 and 4,500 feet (Boone, Ashe County, Blowing Rock, and points south). Higher elevations such as Grandfather, Beech, and Sugar Mountain will have their peak leaf colors a week earlier and elevations below 3,000 feet will peak 7-10 days later than the areas in the High Country.

“Forests are still 100% green, although you can see the beginnings of fall creeping on to the landscape. Dogwood leaves are turning a dull burgundy red at this time, and later in the season will take on a slightly brighter hue. Some red maples are beginning to drop a few leaves,” Neufeld said.

Keep checking back with the High Country Press for updates on the fall leaf season in the mountains.