Falling for the Foliage...

Posted Updated
Leslie Leaves
Mike Moss

This time of year a lot of folks start asking about the progress and prognosis for fall colors as deciduous trees undertake their preparations for waiting out the winter by ceasing chlorophyll production and eventually shedding their leaves, with a welcome in-between period that showcases the orange, yellow and red hues so many of us enjoy.

Wile the basics of the process are reasonably well understood, the specifics of how a particular season will evolve are hard to pin down as so many aspects of longer and shorter-term weather variations can have big impacts on the rate and intensity of color development and on how many leaves hang around for a good while as opposed to being blown off in strong winds.

That being the case, forecasts of peak color timing for particular elevation ranges are usually not so much forecasts specific to a given year, but are historically based averages that tend to hold up reasonably well from year to year, and then a series of ongoing reports are issued to give potential visitors a sense of how the season is observed to be progressing.

For North Carolina, it is typical for some pockets of good color to begin showing up in higher mountain elevations (5-6,000 feet or so - Elizabeth Gardner and her family spent some time over there this weekend and she says there were some very nice patches of color up there already) around the beginning of October, with peak color spreading to mid-range elevations in the mountains and foothills during the middle of the month and lingering in the lowest elevations there into the first week or so of November (barring a big storm that removes a lot of the leaves early). Here in central parts of the state, we tend to see our best colors around the first two weeks of November.

Those are the generalities - for some more specific and localized progress reports on the leaf season this fall, there is a nice collection of web links and toll-free telephone numbers you can consult at a Forest Service site at this address

One of those sites is the VisitNC site run by the NC Department of Commerce. They've established a pretty extensive network of weekly leaf reports from across the state. You can find that page through the link at the address above, or directly at



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