Fall Color Report

Fall Color Peak Map

Map Conceived by Dr. Howard Neufeld and Michael Denslow
Map Constructed by Michael Denslow

2017 UPDATES

For the 6th year in a row WataugaRoads.com & WataugaOnline.com is teaming up with Dr. Howard Neufeld, Professor of Plant Eco-physiology at Appalachian State University, better known as The Fall Color Guy to provide information as the colors start changing.

In getting a preview for the 2017 season, WataugaOnline.com ask Dr. Neufeld his thoughts about what we might can expect. He said, “It has been a cool and wet summer up to this last week, when we have gotten our usual August weather. One positive feature for this year will be the lack of drought, which should favor trees like tulip poplar, which are sensitive to water stress. If they keep their leaves, they should turn a nice bright yellow midway thru the season.”

He added, “Otherwise, I think it should be a good year, but we will need temperatures to start dropping in September, and for clear skies. That should bring out the reds, and when they are brilliant, people think we have a good year. If on the other hand, it stays warm and cloudy, that could both delay the onset of color by several days, and dull the reds.”

On a final note Dr. Neufeld said, “I haven’t noticed any major foliar diseases either, which is good news. So, let’s hope for good weather during September and October!!


Final Fall Color Report: For the Week of October 30, 2017

Well folks, it’s been a wild ride this fall color season. Below I summarize my thoughts on the colors this year as well as inform you that this will be my last posting for the season. The colors have mostly moved downslope and out of the High Country and some of these areas now coloring up are a little far for me to get to (considering I have another job that actually pays me!). I’ve enjoyed posting fall color reports, meeting a few of you, and answering your questions as best I could. I hope everyone who came to the High Country had a pleasant experience and will think about coming back next year, when hopefully, the leaf colors will be better. As they say, one day in the mountains is better than any day at work!

First off here’s my summary of this past season. I thought the colors were going to come early this year because of the cool and wet summer we had, but then just as they started to turn, the temperatures in the High Country shot up near 10-15 degrees above normal for several weeks in a row, and color development slowed way down. Then, we had one cool week, and they started up again, followed by more warm weather, and they stopped yet again. These up and down temperature swings surely took their toll on the trees. And on top of all that, we had Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Nate that variously took down leaves (and trees!) throughout the mountains. All in all, the convergence of all the worst possible factors for fall color!

The wild and mild weather upset the traditional coloring up this fall season. Some trees turned early (like American ash trees), while maples were spread completely across the spectrum, with some still coloring up even now in the High Country, whereas others have been leafless for several weeks. In some areas, trees went from beginning to color up to completely leafless, as happened at Price Lake near Blowing Rock, NC.

In some areas, such as the Blue Ridge Parkway along the eastern flank of Grandfather Mountain, the colors were fairly good, as they always are in that section, while other parts of the Parkway, like The Craggies and the section between Mt. Mitchell and Chestoa Overlook, were muted or dropped their leaves prematurely. A lot of trees went straight from green to black or brown and then dropped, like many tulip poplars and birches. This asynchrony was one major factor that led to the diminution of fall colors this season.

When colors did develop, they were dominated by oranges and yellows. Reds weren’t as prominent this year, which is as I predicted, as warm weather reduces the amount of red pigment in leaves. However, when some trees did turn red, they did so spectacularly, especially among urban red maples, planted especially for their fall color, and occasional isolated red maple or sourwood out in the woods. It’s just that this year their peak color seems 1-2 weeks later than in previous years. Boone, for example, had a lot of its urban maples peaking last week, when in earlier years, they did so by mid-October.

There are still colorful areas out there. Yesterday, even though it was snowing in Boone, I headed north on the Parkway, picking it up where it crosses U.S. 421, and where it was surprisingly mostly sunny. This is a less visited section of the Parkway, but nonetheless, with spectacular views from the overlooks, some of which are as good as those from the section around Grandfather Mountain. However, the surrounding countryside is more pastoral, devoted more to cattle farming, with lush meadows and Christmas tree farms here and there. I enjoy this section for its relative isolation and lack of traffic jams at peak color time.

I found that despite this late date, there was good color in sections, although mostly oranges and yellows, but from some of the overlooks, there were smatterings of red from maples, oaks, sourwoods, and black gums. Sassafras were in good color, along with the yellow/brown magnolias, birches, and hickories.

It was hard to take pictures yesterday, as the wind was blowing about 50 mph, and it was colder than a you-know-what. But I had a lovely drive, with little or no traffic, and I recommend this section for those who want to get away from the crowds. Because the front that moved in yesterday took down the humidity, I’ll bet I could see 50-75 miles in the distance!

If you’re still up for fall color viewing this season, I recommend you head to areas below 2,500’ now, places like Chimney Rock, Gorges, and Stone Mountain State Parks. There may even still be color in the Smokies at the lower elevations. And if you head up the Parkway into Virginia, which is even further behind, you might be able to catch some color there.

I hope you’ve all had a good fall color season, and I’ll see you next year. On occasion I’ll post tidbits I find about trees, ecology, or the like. Don’t hesitate to send me a note if you have any questions about nature, trees, or ecology, and I’ll see if I can answer them. See you all next year!


Each fall season WataugaOnline.com receives tremendous photos from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. Here are some recent ones.

Stack Rock Creek takes a dip through fall foliage along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Colors are still vibrant at some of the High Country’s higher elevations, as the changing of the leaves progresses further down into the valleys. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Colorfully crisp fall foliage lines the ridge between Stack Rock (Milepost 308.4) and the U.S. 221 exit on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway-facing side of Grandfather Mountain continues to be a prime spot for leaf-looking, although vibrant colors are popping in many areas of the High Country, especially in descending elevations. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Golden leaves cross the Linville River Bridge, located near Milepost 316 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Despite Monday’s torrential rainfall, most trees seem to have retained their leaves, meaning fall color is still shining and well on track in the lower elevations. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall foliage adds a spot of brightness to a rainy day on Price Lake, located at Milepost 296.7 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Although many leaves have fallen at higher elevations, colors continue to burst around Grandfather Mountain, particularly on the east side facing the Parkway. According to Dr. Howie Neufeld, Appalachian State University biology professor and ‘Fall Color Guy,’ higher-elevation areas along the Parkway are now past peak, but colors should persist through next weekend, especially at lower elevations, weather permitting. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall color descends the slopes of Grandfather Mountain into the forests and valleys below. According to experts, since many trees at lower elevations are still mostly green, leaf-lookers can expect to see color change continue over the next couple of weeks. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall color begins to spread through the High Country’s lower elevations, as seen at this pull-off from U.S. Hwy. 221. The highway runs near the Blue Ridge Parkway, which offers dramatic vistas of the mountains and valleys below, much of which still remains green. According to Dr. Howie Neufeld, Appalachian State University biology professor and “Fall Color Guy,” the forests seen from most overlooks are about 1,000 feet lower in elevation, meaning the leaves in those locations still have a little way to go. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Golden leaves complement the sunshine in Grandfather Mountain’s MacRae Meadows, with the mountain itself creating a stunning seasonal backdrop. During summertime, the meadows are draped in a different color — plaid. MacRae Meadows is the site of the annual Grandfather Mountain Highland Games, held each July and celebrated as one of the nation’s most popular gatherings of Scottish clans. Meanwhile, fall color continues to progress into the lower elevations of the High Country, with spot color still bursting at higher elevations, such as Rough Ridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 302.8), meaning leaf-lookers can expect some colorful sights this coming weekend. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


Fall Color Report for Sunday October 22 from The Fall Color Guy

The colors have come on very nicely, especially in and around Grandfather on the east side adjacent to the Parkway. In other areas, the colors are very dull, and above 3,000′, many leaves have now completely fallen off. If you didn’t get here today, and the rains coming don’t do a number on the trees, colors should persist to next weekend.

This has not been the greatest year for fall color, but I must say that they are not bad along Grandfather. Color is spotty this year, so as you drive the Parkway, you’ll go in and out of colorful areas. The colors are developing nicely now at 2,500′ and below and all high areas on the Parkway are now past their peak.

If the rains on Mon and Tue of this week don’t knock too many leaves off then forests at 2,500′ or below should continue to develop good colors and if you come up to the High Country, that is where you will see the best colors from the overlooks, right up to the next weekend.

After this coming weekend, the best colors will be at lower elevations, so start heading south, and to areas at lower elevation. This would include Brevard, Pisgah Forest and the waterfalls, Chimney Rock and Gorges State Parks, as well as Stone Mountain State Park.

I think the combination of unusually warm October weather and Hurricanes Irma and Nate have disrupted the trees this year. If I had to rank this year’s fall display, on a scale of 1 is worst, and 10 is best, I’d rank this year a 3. That’s the lowest I’ve ranked it since I started doing fall color forecasts. Let’s hope next year we have more typical fall weather.

However, if you look at the long-term trends, what is unusual now may become the new normal in the future. We are in a warming trend globally (whether you are a denier or not, it is warming, which is a fact, not an opinion), and this means that if such warming continues, we may all have to adjust to a new concept of what fall colors will be in the southern Appalachians. Of course, two years is not a trend – most climatologists use 30 years to discern trends, so those of you who are younger, keep track and 28 years from now, let us know what the trend has been for fall colors. Or, maybe I’ll do it – I’ll only be 93 then and today, 93 is the new 73, right?

Enjoy your time in the High Country!


Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


Each fall season WataugaOnline.com receives tremendous photos from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. Here are some recent ones.

Seasonal color sits along the banks of Boone Fork Creek. The creek and its bridge — part of the popular Tanawha Trail — can be accessed from milepost 299.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail, named after Grandfather Mountain’s Native American moniker, meaning “fabulous hawk,” connects with the mountain’s Daniel Boone Scout and Nuwati trails. With much of the Parkway’s lower elevations still relatively green, experts are expecting superb color this coming weekend. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
The view from nearby Grandmother Mountain sees Grandfather Mountain draped in fall colors. While Grandfather Mountain’s leaves peaked last week and this past weekend, the mountain’s mile-high elevation offers a stunning viewpoint to see the abundance of color in the valleys below. According to Dr. Howie Neufeld, Appalachian State University biology professor and “Fall Color Guy,” there is still a lot of green to be found in in the surrounding High Country, meaning this coming weekend should offer some prime leaf-looking. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Grandfather Mountain’s Linville Peak peeks out from the clouds, as seen from St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church in Linville, N.C. Those visiting Grandfather Mountain this weekend can expect peak colors on the mountain, and vibrant hues spreading throughout the valleys below. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Fall Color Report for Week of October 15, 2017

I took a drive today down to Chestoa Overlook, about 4 miles south of Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I then worked my way back north to Price Lake and Cone Manor in Blowing Rock.

The take home message is this: the best color can be found starting at the Yonahlossee Overlook near Grandfather Mountain and on up north to the Rough Ridge Trail on the Parkway. Even so, it is not yet at peak. There is still a lot of green, which means that next weekend should be even better. And it’s supposed to get cool this week, which should hasten color development.

Other areas, such as the Chestoa Overlook, have good color in the parking lot and on the trail, but the views to the forests below are still mostly green. It may be a week or even two before those forests color up. Still worth a drive there, as you can see Table Rock from this overlook.

The bad news is I don’t think this will be a great fall color year. The heat wave we’re having (it was 72oF today in the mountains, which is about 10-15oF warmer than it should be this time of year) is doing a number on the leaves. Many trees have already lost leaves even before they have turned color. At Price Lake, for example, it went from no color to no leaves. It’s still pretty there, but the colors are fairly dull.

The same can be said for the state of the fall colors in and around Boone. Now Boone always has dull fall color compared to other parts of the county, perhaps due to species composition, but this year it seems even duller than normal. This is our second year in a row with an exceptionally warm October, and high temperatures are not conducive to great fall colors.

Right now, sassafras are peaking (orange, red, yellow, all on one tree), as are magnolias, birches, and witch hazel (all yellow). Red maples are coloring up, while sugar maples (mostly yellow) are losing their leaves. Tulip poplars have dropped most of their leaves, retaining only those on the exterior portion of their crowns. Sourwoods are still a nice burgundy, as are huckleberrys and black gums.

I think the peak color weekend will be next weekend along this stretch of the Parkway. However, the forests that you view from the overlooks are about a 1,000’ lower in elevation, so they will not peak until even later.

So, if you’re still planning to come to the mountains, you have still have plenty of time. I’ll report about other sections of the mountains later this weekend. Meanwhile, have a safe drive up to the mountains, and happy leaf looking!


Fall Color Report October 12, 2017 

The Fall Color Guy says that at elevations below 2,500′, the leaves are mostly green. Returning from a recent trip Dr. Neufeld said, “Good color didn’t start until I was on US 321 between Blowing Rock and Boone. Then it fades (as it often does each year) the closer you get to Boone.” This weekend should be excellent for viewing fall color, and the good colors should last through the week to the next weekend. That puts the peak EXACTLY in the time period when I said it would peak – between Oct 10 and 18.

If you’re planning a trip to the Boone/Blowing Rock area, Linville Falls, and Mt. Mitchell or Doughton Park, the next two weekends and the week in between should be very good. Luckily, the remnants of Hurricane Nate this last weekend didn’t take out all the leaves, and there are plenty still left to develop color.

 


Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


 

Each fall season WataugaOnline.com receives tremendous photos from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. Here are some recent ones.

Autumn casts a colorful reflection on Grandfather Lake, as fog shrouds Grandfather Mountain above. Much of the foliage on the mountain is at or near peak color, with leaves also changing at lower elevations. According to Dr. Howie Neufeld, Appalachian State University professor of biology professor and “Fall Color Guy,” most of the leaves in the High Country were spared from the remnants of Hurricane Nate, with plenty left to still develop color. As such, leaf-lookers can expect a picturesque weekend, with ample color to be seen the following week and beyond. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall color brightens the drive up Grandfather Mountain’s main road, as pictured from atop the park’s Sphinx Rock boulder. Most of the mountain’s foliage is now at peak, and experts are anticipating a most colorful weekend ahead. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Autumn is bursting with color at Grandfather Mountain’s Half Moon Overlook. Most of the foliage on Grandfather is near or at peak, with foliage in the surrounding valleys beginning to follow suit. As such, visitors to the High Country can likely expect a vibrant display this coming weekend. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall colors and Grandfather Mountain cast their reflections in the lake at Camp Yonahnoka, located just south of Grandfather Mountain in Linville. Fall colors are near or at peak on the mountain, while foliage in surrounding areas is now beginning to pop, particularly in the Boone and Blowing Rock areas. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

 

Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


 

Each fall season WataugaOnline.com receives tremendous photos from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. Here are some recent ones.

Bass Lake in Blowing Rock grows even more picturesque, as fall color begins to brighten the landscape. Located off U.S. 221 near Blowing Rock, a short drive from Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 294.6, the lake is part of Moses Cone Memorial Park and offers ample easy-access hiking and leaf-looking options, with some of the longer trails leading to the historic Cone Manor House. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Golden leaves brighten the landscape surrounding the Toe River in Newland. With temperatures fluctuating between warm and cool, fall color has exhibited an irregular pattern this year, with colors stalling during warmer weather and resuming the shift with cooler temperatures. There has also been a surprising amount of premature defoliation, or leaf-dropping — especially in sugar maples, birches and tulip poplars, Appalachian State University biology professor and “Fall Color Guy” Dr. Howie Neufeld notes, and which experts are attributing to the unusual weather. Nonetheless, leaf-lookers might expect nice color over the coming weekend and following week. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Fall color enhances the vista from Grandfather Mountain’s Black Rock parking area. Although leaves are gradually changing at higher elevations, an abundance of green fills the valleys below. A forecast for warmer weather by the end of the week could yet again stall color development, meaning what was originally thought to be an early peak could possibly be late. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


Each fall season WataugaOnline.com receives tremendous photos from Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation. Here are some recent ones.

Fall color is on the rise near Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge. Many trees are nearing peak color at higher elevations, and this week’s forecast of cooler temperatures could help accelerate the process at lower elevations. Dr. Howie Neufeld, Appalachian State University professor of biology and ‘Fall Color Guy,’ predicts that colors will start popping toward the end of the first week of October and peaking in mid-October in the Boone and Blowing Rock area. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Huckleberry bushes are ablaze in seasonal color near Grandfather Mountain’s Mile High Swinging Bridge. With cooler temperatures predicted for the next several days, experts believe fall color could peak this weekend at higher elevations between 5,000 and 6,000 feet above sea level, with elevations around 4,500 feet and below peaking the following weekend. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
A view from Grandfather Mountain’s Top Shop catches sunrise over the fog-laced valleys below. Grandfather Mountain’s lofty peaks offer visitors the chance to see the entirety of autumn unfold before their eyes, as fall color spreads throughout the High Country and beyond. Experts are predicting colors to peak around mid-October for elevations between 3,000 and 4,000 feet above sea level, with higher elevations peaking even sooner. For more fall color photos, visit Grandfather Mountain’s official Fall Color Gallery at http://bit.ly/2xzZnDz. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

 

Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


Photos from Saturday September 23, 2017 from The Fall Color Guy

Here are photos of trees on the Appalachian State University campus. The sugar maples are especially striking now. Note also, how they change first on the east side, which red maples do also. The deep purple trees are ash trees. These photos were taken on Thursday of this last week.

dogwood tree
Red maple changing, first on the east side, on Rivers St.
Sugar maple with brilliant orange leaves on mall near old Belk Library.
American ash, which turns a deep purple color. We may not see this color much more, because the emerald ash borer is on its way, and may kill all the ash trees in the United States. One of the most destructive insects to ever invade our forests.
Larger ash tree (left), next to a sugar maple (right). This is Durham Park, at the entrance to Appalachian State University near the coliseum.
Sugar maple turning yellow/orange on the east side.
Looks like a painting almost. An orange sugar maple in the middle.

 

The photos below go with the Fall Color Update for the week of September 24 which can be found below.

Fall Color Report for Week of September 24, 2017 

I’m glad to report that the Blue Ridge Parkway is now open again in nearly all locations. I was able to drive from Little Switzerland to The Craggies today. The good news is that colors have not yet peaked, even at the high elevations at the Craggies and Mt. Mitchell. I spoke with the ranger at the Craggies and he thinks they will peak next weekend (Sep 30).

Now, the main trees at the Craggies are yellow birch, beech, hawthorn, mountain ash, pin cherry, and a few black maples. Nearly all of these trees turn either yellow or orange. There are very few trees that turn red at this site, so when it does peak, it will look yellow with a burnt orange tint.

Mt. Mitchell is dominated by spruce and fir at the highest elevations, and there are scattered birch, mountain ash, pin cherries, and elderberry among the evergreens. Because of this selection of species, colors at the peak will also tend toward the yellow/orange, intermixed among the green firs and spruces. But downslope, the forests have more sugar and red maples, sourwoods, and black gums, so they will color up with bright reds among the yellow and oranges, your more typical expectation for fall colors. These forests are just now starting in this section of the Parkway, and have at least another two weeks before they color up nicely.

Sumacs are coloring up along the roadsides, as are blueberries and other assorted shrubs. Viburnum are also turning yellow to purple beneath the birch canopy at high elevations.

There are few flowers at these high elevation sites, but goldenrods and white and blue asters are abundant along the trails now. There are a variety of lichens at high elevations, growing mainly on tree branches and trunks. Lichens are an interesting organism, composed of algae growing symbiotically within a fungal host. Some lichens even host more than one species of algae at a time.

Lichens are very sensitive to air pollution, so their presence is an indicator that the air quality in the southern Appalachians is getting better. In fact, because of the Clean Air Act (CAA), sulfur dioxide pollution is down nearly 75% and ozone has declined to its lowest levels in the Southern Appalachians since we’ve been monitoring it. In fact, no jurisdiction in the United States is out of compliance for sulfur dioxide now, a remarkable accomplishment when you think of it, especially when you consider that the population of the United States has grown considerably since the CAA was enacted.

As you drive north toward Boone/Blowing Rock, you will see more color, especially in the Linville/Tynecastle area. However, the dominant hue is still green, although there is noticeable color showing up on the hillsides. But I’d estimate it’s only about 30% to the peak, although I hear that Rough Ridge, on the Parkway east of Grandfather, is further along (it always peaks early for some reason).

I’ll post an album of photos from today’s trip soon. Each weekend from now on will provide more and more color if you journey up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. While many are predicting an early peak in the High Country, this recent warming trend might slow the colors down, and put us back on track, with peaks in the High Country in mid-October. Only time (and the weather) will tell!

Hope this is helpful. Drive safely and don’t speed on the Parkway – their tickets are yuuuge!
Cheers!


Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


Friday, Sept. 22, marks the first day of fall 2017, and Grandfather Mountain is already showcasing its seasonal colors. With color rapidly changing at elevations between 6,000 and 5,000 feet, guests to Grandfather Mountain could expect to see peak or near-peak conditions toward the top of the mountain — as seen here from the park’s Cliffside Overlook — this very weekend. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Each fall season WataugaOnline.com receives tremendous photos from Grandfather Mountain. Today, Wednesday Sept 20, is the first of these installments.

Fall color is starting to fall upon Grandfather Mountain. About a week earlier than in 2016, visitors can catch vibrant glimpses of gold, orange and red all throughout the mountain, as this photo taken from the mountain’s Nature Museum toward Linville Peak illustrates. For additional fall color updates, visit www.grandfather.com. Photo by Sharon Glatthorn | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Pockets of fall foliage spring into view near Grandfather Mountain’s MacRae Meadows. For additional fall color updates, visit www.grandfather.com. Photo by Skip Sickler | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation
Sunshine complements the golden hues of newly turned foliage in Grandfather Mountain’s Woods Walk picnic area. For additional fall color updates, visit www.grandfather.com. Photo by Sharon Glatthorn | Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation

Maps via Foliage Network – http://www.foliagenetwork.net


 

 

Fall Color Report for Week of September 17, 2017

Well, today’s activities makes me think of the poem Maud Muller, by John Greenleaf Whittier (http://www.bartleby.com/102/76.html), which contains these immortal words:

For of all sad words of tongue or pen,
The saddest are these: “It might have been!”

So what ‘might have been’? Well I was out scouting the leaves and encountered a closed Blue Ridge Parkway just up from Asheville about 7 miles, and had to turn around. The Parkway was closed for the next 20 miles until Park personnel can remove downed branches and trees from the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. This means I could not get to the Craggies, one of my favorite stops on the Parkway. . The good news is that by next weekend that section should be re-opened.

The other thing that ‘might have been’ was a visit to Mt. Mitchell. But instead, my car died on the way there. Luckily, for me, it did so at one of my favorite ice cream stops (Dairyland, at the intersection of U.S. 70 and Rt. 80 just west of Marion). Try the coconut ice cream – to die for! Rt. 80 is a very windy road that will take you up to the Parkway and from there you can go to Mt. Mitchell State Park. Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in the eastern United States, at 6,684’ elevation.

Well, a kind group of ladies had jumper cables, and I got my car started again, but had to head straight back to Boone, where I left it at my favorite mechanic’s place to be looked at tomorrow. Most likely an old battery, so not too serious. But it did prevent me from taking as many photos today as I would have liked.

Nonetheless, I did take a few photos on the Parkway. As you can see, it is still mostly green, BUT, there is significant color now showing up in the hills. One of the most colorful changes has been the Virginia creeper, which in most locales has now turned its usual deep burgundy red. It makes a nice contrast for a few weeks against the still green trees that it climbs on. The sumacs are also starting to turn a fiery red/orange along roadsides now and they add a brilliant splash of color this time of year.

Elsewhere, red and sugar maples are turning rapidly now, both in town and in the forests. If colors continue to develop at the pace of this last week, I may have to state, for about the first time ever, that I think colors may come early this year, by at least 7 days. However, the coming week is supposed to be warm (mid-70s in the Boone area) and that may slow down the color development. If it doesn’t, then I may predict that colors could peak around Oct 7 in the Boone/Blowing Rock area instead of the 12th-14th. We’ll know for sure by next weekend.

Other notable developments are the continued coloring of sourwoods, which are peaking now in the High Country and foothills. They just turn early for some reason. Many sugar maples are already bright yellow and orange, and red maples are starting to show up nicely. The birches are really coloring up now, a sunny yellow, and tulip poplars are starting too. Ash trees often turn a deep purple color and are now showing up along the Parkway and in town.
Some readers have gone to Graveyards, just west of Asheville on the Parkway (and I highly recommend visiting this spot) and they report that colors are showing there already. I will post a photo from Graveyards soon. This area is very high up on the Parkway, so colors peak much earlier there. I will also get a report from the Smokies to see how they are doing and post that later.

That’s the report for this week. Watch for periodic updates throughout the week. My car should be fixed early this week, so hopefully I can go out next weekend for another excursion and be able to bring back photos from the Parkway for you.
Cheers!


Fall Color Report for Week of September 10, 2017

Yesterday I checked out Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, just outside West Jefferson, NC in Ashe County. I just posted the pictures from this. This is a really nice place to view fall leaf colors, and to just take in the spectacular views from the top. You can drive all the way to the parking lot there by the picnic pavilion and then head out on the main trail for about ¾ mile to the Luther Rock viewpoint. It’s mostly level hiking, so it’s an easy trip. There are several other trails that go off the main one, and they all loop back so you can’t get lost.

This area is dominated by red, black and chestnut oaks, along with red and striped maples and American chestnut sprouts (the larger trees were killed about a century ago by a fungal blight, but the trees continue to sprout from the roots each year before dying when they get about 20’ tall). The slopes are quite steep at the top, so do as the signage says and stay on the trails so you don’t fall down the steep slopes. This natural area is very popular with families and kids, and you can either picnic on the mountain, or sample the restaurants in nearby West Jefferson.

This week, the Mountain Ash were just starting to turn, as were the striped maple, black birch and a smattering of red maples. At the rock outcrops, the huckleberries are turning red now. Otherwise, the rest of the trees are still quite green.

I highly recommend this hike. It’s easy access, and if you stop at the Jefferson Overlook, on the road before you get to the top, you can see into Virginia, which is only about 20 miles away. The prominent peak is Whitetop Mountain, Virginia’s second highest peak at 5,518’ elevation. Mt. Jefferson is at 4,680’, and noticeably cooler than the valley just below, so be prepared when you go and bring jackets on cool days. The elevation makes these forests similar to those much farther north, in fact, similar to those in New York state.

In town, the ornamental red maples are starting to display now. Many turn red from the top first. I’ll post a few pictures soon. They always turn much earlier than the native trees. The other early turning native trees are dogwoods and sourwoods, both of which have colored up red quite nicely this past week.

Finally, many of you are wondering what the impact of Hurricane Irma will be. Well, it has taken a more westerly track and is only supposed to skim the mountains. Wind speeds may be 40-50 mph, but because the leaves are still mostly green, and held firmly by the trees, I don’t think this will knock many of them off. We often have thunderstorms with more severe winds. I think the fall color season will be just fine. It has been quite cool so far, which is good for stimulating the red colors. So, I think we are still on schedule – mid-October for Boone/Blowing Rock and the Highlands area, a week or so earlier for higher elevations, like the Craggies and Graveyards off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and the end of October for lower elevations like the Asheville/Hendersonville area. The Smokies, with their great range of elevation, start changing in early October at high elevations, and peak in mid- to late-October, since they are slightly south of Boone. Check my links on my fall color page at ASU for links to other sites. Here it is:
https://biology.appstate.edu/fall-colors

Have a good week, and I’ll post again next Sunday!


 

Fall Color Report for Week of September 3, 2017 from The Fall Color Guy

Today was a beautiful day – clear blue skies, followed by a thin veneer of cirrus clouds later on, with comfortable, cool temperatures – perfect hiking weather. There were lots of people out on the trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway and at Grandfather Mountain State Park. I like to see people out experiencing nature – I overheard one young boy say that this was the best place he could remember. How great to hear something like that!

Well, there is only a slight start to the fall color season. Some of the shrubs, like huckleberry and low and high bush blueberry, are starting to change color. A maple here and there is coloring up, as are a few birch, but the remaining trees are still green.

There are some nice late summer flowering plants, like goldenrods, pokeweeds, impatiens, asters, snakeroot, Joe-Pye weed, and ironweed, decorating the roadsides and forest understories now. This is also a good year for mushrooms, many of which are popping up along the trails now.

The roads to Grandfather were clogged with cars today, so when the fall colors start, be aware that if you delay the time of day you go to the mountain, you could find yourself sitting for an hour or two waiting to get in. Go early, or late, or during the week. Weekends will be crowded.

It’s been cool here in the High Country all summer. It was 54F this morning and only reached a high of 62 yesterday, which is pretty remarkable for this time of year. If this continues throughout September, we should be on schedule for a good fall color season. Interestingly, the urban red maples, planted in town, are only now just turning, but the colors don’t look as intense to me as in previous years. I’ll take some photos tomorrow and post them for you to see.

See you next week!


August 30, 2017 Update from The Fall Color Guy.

Well, not much has happened yet. Urban trees are changing now – the red maples are coloring up, from the east and top sides of the tree at first. Sourwoods are beginning to turn red, a few sumacs, and of course the dogwoods.

We are still on for a good fall color season. Although it’s been cool this summer, I predict the schedule of colors will be the same as in previous years, with Boone/Blowing Rock peaking in mid-October, higher elevations a week before, and Asheville that lower elevations toward the end of October. Of course, it depends on weather conditions in September largely. The remnants of Hurricane Harvey are moving toward the Carolinas, so the next few days could be warm and wet. Hopefully, after it passes through, we’ll get sunny and cool conditions, which make for good fall color.


In getting a preview for the 2017 season, WataugaOnline.com ask Dr. Neufeld his thoughts about what we might can expect. He said, “It has been a cool and wet summer up to this last week, when we have gotten our usual August weather. One positive feature for this year will be the lack of drought, which should favor trees like tulip poplar, which are sensitive to water stress. If they keep their leaves, they should turn a nice bright yellow midway thru the season.”

He added, “Otherwise, I think it should be a good year, but we will need temperatures to start dropping in September, and for clear skies. That should bring out the reds, and when they are brilliant, people think we have a good year. If on the other hand, it stays warm and cloudy, that could both delay the onset of color by several days, and dull the reds.”

On a final note Dr. Neufeld said, “I haven’t noticed any major foliar diseases either, which is good news. So, let’s hope for good weather during September and October!!


Dr.Neufeld shared some thoughts just before previous fall seasons that are still relevant for this, or any, fall season:

As for wet weather, there have been some publications on the impacts of weather on fall color (especially timing, not so much quality). Precipitation has only minor effects on timing in the fall. Temperature is more important. So, at this point, I don’t see anything to make me think that fall colors will be adversely affected, either in timing or quality.

What happens in mid- to late August and in September, temperature-wise, will be more important, especially for quality (notably the intensity of the red colors)”.

People think fall colors are good when they last a long time, and have plenty of brilliant reds interspersed with the oranges and yellows. So, the quality will depend on how much “redness” we have this fall.

Trees tend to make more red colors (anthocyanins) in the fall when it’s cool and sunny, and if we have a slight but not severe drought.

Sunny days means more photosynthesis, and more sugars produced in the leaves, and sugars induce anthocyanin production.

A slight drought impairs uptake of nitrogen (we think) and some experiments suggest that plants low on N make more anthocyanins.

Usually, fall colors peak around Oct 11-14 in the Boone area; sooner by a few days up to a week at higher elevations, later at lower ones. Nice colors can stick around for a week or more, although the peak usually comes and goes in just a few days, weather permitting (no high winds for example)”.

Fall Color 101


Fall Color Report for Week of August 13, 2017

Well, there haven’t been many developments since my post last week. I do include a picture of the dogwoods across the street from my house. You can definitely see them starting to color up.Otherwise we continue in our late summer weather pattern, with higher humidities, making it very muggy here. Still getting ample rain too. Hope everyone has a great week.

 


Fall Color Report for Week of August 6, 2017

It has been an unusually cool summer here in the High Country. Morning temperatures have been as low as 48F, and this past week, in the low 50s. We had to put on a blanket last night it got so cool! Daytime highs struggle to get in middle or high 70s. And the humidity has been low. Absolutely perfect weather.

Some trees have already decided that it’s time to prepare for the upcoming fall. The dogwood in my yard has already started turning purple. Note also on the whole tree photo (below) that the purpling is most noticeable on the left side of the tree – that’s the side that gets morning sun. My thought is that trees turn early on their east sides because that’s when they get the combination of both cool temperatures and high light. And those together can cause leaves to suffer photo-inhibition and cellular damage. By producing the purple pigment, which is an anthocyanin (the same compound that colors strawberries and roses) they protect their leaves from photo-inhibition. This in turn, allows them more time to withdraw nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, back in to their leaves for use next year when they make new leaves.

Off the mountain, I’ve noticed that the tulip poplars have been losing a lot of leaves (they turn yellow then brown/black). According to the NC Climate Office, it has been a very hot summer in the Piedmont region of the state, and tulip poplars are sensitive to water stress, and maybe heat stress too. I haven’t seen the same leaf loss up here in the mountains. And we’re ahead in terms of rainfall this year.

Lastly, as happens every year at this time, the black locust are being attacked by the locust leaf miner, a native insect that eats the leaves and turns them brown. It doesn’t seem to hurt the trees too much, but does look bad as you drive down the road.

That’s the latest update from the High Country. Enjoy these last days of summer. Remember, there will be a total eclipse on August 21st. DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY AT THE ECLIPSE WITHOUT SUITABLE EYE PROTECTION. AND BEWARE OF USING REGULAR OR FAKE SUNGLASSES – REGULAR GLASSES WON’T PROTECT YOU AND THEIR ARE FAKES OUT THERE THAT WON’T EITHER. CONSULT YOUR TV STATIONS FOR REPUTABLE SUNGLASS SELLERS.

 

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