September 19, 2006
With summer concluding, folks all around town are gearing up for Central Virginia's Fall Foliage.
Fall will begin this year with a rain deficit near eight inches and while we need the rain for other reasons, the lack of rain won't really hurt the Fall Foliage. The changing of the leaves has more to do with sunlight than water content.
"There's more chlorophyll in the summer, which is the green color and that's the color that gives...the trees [the sunlight needed] in order to produce the nutrient for the tree", explained Virginia Department of Forestry's Barbara White.
When the days are shorter and the temperatures cooler, the trees tend to slow down.
"The amount of chlorophyll in the leaves reduces, so the other colors become visible," says White.
The drought actually makes fall colors more vibrant.
One effect the drought can have is on the timing of the foliage. "A lot of stress will go into early fall coloration as in response to drought. Earlier--several weeks ago we saw the tulip poplars giving a nice fall display and that was totally related to drought stress", explained White.
The prettiest color can come down to personal preference, but one particular species in this area is quite popular.
"Red maple [is the favorite]. We don't have sugar maple here very much--there are some that are planted in the landscape, but red maple is probably the best," says White.
While all trees don't change at the same time, the peak foliage for Central Virginia is around the middle of October. White has one suggestion, "Just enjoy it, it's nature putting on a real big show!"
There are plenty of places to see the leaves all across Central Virginia. For some recommended driving tours, visit Fall Foliage in Virginia.