Archived Outdoors

Moderate fall color season predicted

Western Carolina University students gather beneath autumn leaves. WCU photo Western Carolina University students gather beneath autumn leaves. WCU photo

A “reasonably colorful” fall leaf season with a less pronounced peak than usual is predicted for Western North Carolina, according to Western Carolina University fall color forecaster Beverly Collins.

While warm, wet weather this summer and fall combined with tropical storms moving through the area, could put something of a damper on fall colors, warmer-than-average temperatures could mean fall colors last longer overall. The National Weather Service is predicting near normal temperatures and a wetter-than-average September, with warmer than average temperatures through November.

“All the above may combine to bring on color a little earlier in some species and a little later in others, with spottier bright reds and yellows, and a less pronounced peak in late October at WCU’s elevation,” Collins said. “On the bright side, the mid- and late fall colors may last longer, into November around campus, and later in October at higher elevations.”

This could mean a color season running from late September well into November when accounting for both the higher and lower elevations — though a late storm knocking leaves off the trees could change that.

Trees’ leaf colors are a mixture of yellow, orange and red pigments that are revealed as photosynthesis and chlorophyll production wind down. These pigments, especially the yellow and orange, play a role in photosynthesis and, along with the red pigment, help protect the plant from stresses, such as drought, heat or high UV conditions.

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