Monday, September 13, 2010

Seeing Early Fall Colors?

You may be noticing some trees already showing "Fall" colors (mainly dark red or brown) in central Virginia. This is not directly a result of our Summer winding down, but rather because of the severe drought plaguing central Virginia. The trees on which you are seeing early color are young, recently damaged, or "distressed" (i.e., very dry). In our parking lot at CBS6, I found one such example of a distressed tree:
This tree is relatively young, doesn't get special watering from a sprinkler system (which if it were there, would unhelpfully be in the middle of the parking lot), and it lost some limbs earlier this year during a severe wind event. Therefore, this tree is certainly stressed, and is trying to save itself by pulling nutrients into the core of the tree, thus conserving water, and allowing the leaves to drop early. Going dormant is the tree's self-preservation tactic.

Because of our severe Summer drought, this could delay the onset of healthy tree Fall color a few weeks later than average (see map below for average Fall color peaks). However, distressed trees will "peak" early in the season and drop their leaves.
If warmer than average temperatures continue through the Fall as they did through Spring and Summer, our colors in the Commonwealth could be dulled, too. So if you're in Virginia and you want to see typical color for our state, you'll need to go where the drought is over: southwest Virginia. In central Virginia, our Fall colors may be lack-luster as trees struggle to survive this drought. Here's the latest Drought Monitor:
You can read official Fall foliage reports for Virginia here all season.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Carrie, your post is very informational and well thought out. I appreciate reading about the leaf colors changing.