Every fall in the Boone area, one big question remains: When will be the peak time for leaves this year?
Howard Neufeld, a professor of biology at Appalachian, also known as “the fall color guy,” said that there are a few things that can influence when leaves turn and how intense their colors are each year.
“Trees respond to the shortening of the days, so [when] the days get shorter they start to prepare for winter,” Neufeld said. “Other trees use that in combination with temperature. So, when they sense cold, then they start to prepare for the winter and turn color.”
Additionally, Neufeld said, the leaves can be impacted by sunlight, amount of rainfall and how quickly the air changes to cool.
“Normally in the Boone area, the peak colors are around the 10th through the 18th of October, and I think we’re on that kind of schedule,” Neufeld said.
Ray Russell, a professor of computer science and founder of Ray’s Weather Center, a group of weather stations covering Watauga County, recommended visiting places at higher elevations earlier in the month of October and saving lower elevation spots for later on.
“Early in the season, go to higher elevations like Beech Mountain and Grandfather Mountain,” Russell said. “Then, as we get farther into October, [leaves at their peak] will be spreading to lower and lower elevations until the leaves fall off, so we’ll have a whole month where you can see great color around our area.”
Both Russell and Neufeld agree that climate change could also be impacting our peak leaves.
“As the climate changes, then how [the trees] respond to the fall might change depending on whether they’re clueing in on photoperiod– day length, or whether they’re clueing in on temperature,” Neufeld said. “So, the ones that clue in on temperature may be more affected by climate change than the ones that just clue in on how long the days are. Because if it gets warmer, they’re going to think that it’s still summer.”
Currently, Boone and its surrounding area are mostly green, more likely than not due to the recent warm spell. However, Neufeld said that soon we will be surrounded by vibrant fall colors.
“Aside from this warm period, it’s been mostly cool and the few red trees I’ve seen, they seem pretty good, so I’m thinking that once we get into this next cool period we’ll see the reds really pop out,” Neufeld said.
Story by; Jackie Park, News Reporter
Photo credit; Aleah Warner