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Fall Color Guy Concerned About Long-Term Forecast, Still Time for Cooler Weather

Set of red maples by some condos behind New River Vets in Boone, NC, turning early. Photo by Howard Neufeld
Set of red maples by some condos behind New River Vets in Boone, NC, turning early. Photo by Howard Neufeld

By Jesse Wood

Howard Neufeld, a biology professor at App State University who is known as the “Fall Color Guy,” released his second report of fall 2016. View the entire post here. 

In the week since publishing his first post of the season, Neufeld said he’s seen “noticeable changes in tree leaf color” mostly confined to urban trees and bushes, especially ornamental red maples:

“Notice this set of red maples in the parking lot at Galileo’s in Boone, where two of them are already at peak red color, while their neighbor is still all green. This may reflect their origin, with some coming from northern stock, and others from southern stock. Northern trees planted in the south tend to end their growing season earlier than southern trees because they are probably cueing in on day-length, and down here, the days are shorter in the summer than they are up north. Hence, northern trees planted in the south “think” it’s later in the season then it really is, and hence a time of year when it is usually colder, so they shut down prematurely. For you purists, I know trees don’t “think” in the sense that people do – it’s just an expression.”

In addition to those maples, he said he’s seen Virginia creeper, green ash, sugar maples, and winged burning bushes also starting to turn.

Neufeld said that he’s concerned about the long range forecast for the month ahead. He mentioned that sporadic rain and dry conditions are causing some sugar maples and birches to drop their leaves:

“If it continues dry, we may lose some fall color to premature leaf drop, including the bright yellow tulip poplars later on. The high temperatures, if they persist, could also reduce the intensity of the red pigments some trees produce (the anthocyanins) and that could lead to a duller fall color season. It could also delay the onset of colors, as some trees continue to hold on to their leaves later into the season if it’s warm. However, there’s still time for cool weather to set in and we may yet have a really good fall color season. The next three weeks will determine that!”

Read the entire 1,000-word post here, where you can also see photos, maps and more.