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Fall Color Guy: A Few Weeks To Go Until Really Great Color Shows Up, Forests Seem to be on Regular Schedule

By Jesse Wood

Sept. 22, 2014. In his latest fall color report, ASU Professor Howard Neufeld, also known as the “Fall Color Guy,” says that peak color for the forests in the High Country seems to be arriving on a regular schedule.

“Color should pick up each week now, starting at the higher elevations, and working its way downslope. Based on my drives around the High Country, I think we’ll be on near normal schedule for the most part. While I thought back in early September that trees might change early, much of that feeling was based on viewing urban trees, and indeed, many of them are turning earlier than usual,” Neufeld wrote. “But most of the trees in the forest seem to be on a regular schedule, so if you are planning a visit based on historical times of peak leaf color, I think you will be okay this year.”

This photo depicts some of the color that has arrived to Grandfather Mountain so far. Photo by Kellen Short | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
This photo depicts some of the color that has arrived to Grandfather Mountain so far. This was taken on Sept. 18. Photo by Kellen Short | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

While Neufeld noted that the forests are still mostly green, he mentions this will be the first week to notice some real color along the landscape, especially at higher elevations in the High Country such as Grandfather Mountain and Beech Mountain.

“Fall officially starts [Tuesday night]. Fall leaf color, though, has been going on since August, and it will pick up in pace in the next few weeks,” Neufeld wrote. “… If anything, colors might peak a few days early, but since the displays last several days at a minimum (assuming no severe rain/wind storms at peak color time!), you should be able to find color somewhere here in the mountains, even if you miss it in one particular location.”

As for the vibrant red color in the Town of Boone, Neufeld thinks this has to do with developers planting a special variety of red maples that may come from northern sources, which happen to turn earlier than southern varieties. In addition – as noted in prior color reports – leaves may turn earlier in town when stressed from “soil compaction, salts, trampling, and so on, which may hasten leaf coloration.”

Follow Neufeld on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FallColorGuy.

On Thursday, Jesse Pope, director of education and natural resources at Grandfather Mountain, which hosts a walk series for guests to enjoy fall foliage, noted that he expects “peak viewing opportunities” to occur in the first two weeks of October even though some early color has already arrived.

“We’re seeing a few early changes happening now, but we still expect the peak viewing opportunities to occur at Grandfather Mountain in the first to second week of October,” Pope said in a release from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. “If we experience a pattern of cool, crisp nights and bright sunny days for the next couple of weeks, we’ll be well-positioned for a spectacular fall color season.”

Home to a variety of hardwood trees – from “pumpkin-colored beech trees to blood-red sourwoods and rusty red oaks” – Grandfather Mountain hosts “The Colors of Grandfather” guided-walk series on Oct. 4 to 5, Oct. 11 to 12 and Oct. 18 to 19.

The programs begin at 1 p.m. and are included with regular admission. For more information about “The Colors of Grandfather,” call 800-468-7325 or visit www.grandfather.com.