Photo by Melody

Finding Fall Foliage

By Damian Fagan (D_FaganOctober 2, 2013
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Though April showers bring May flowers, it is autumn days that bring fall's blaze. The transition of summer to fall is punctuated by an exclamation mark of color. Green forests turn ablaze with color from golden yellow to burning red. This is due to a decrease in the intensity and duration of sunlight which causes a leaf’s green chlorophyll pigments to break down. When this happens, different pigments which produce yellows and oranges are unmasked within the leaf. Generally, warm sunny autumn days and dry, cool nights are needed to produce vibrant foliage colors.

Gardening picture

Depending upon location, this technicolor display may last from late August through November. Conditions such as temperature, precipitation, soil moisture and sunlight affect the duration and intensity of fall foliage displays. Freezing weather or hard frosts accelerate the leaf dying process and may result in a rain of leaves and poor fall color.

Northeast hardwood forests may conjure up images of spectacular fall colors, with white church steeples rising above a sea of color. But from western aspen groves to cottonwood galleries in the Southwest to Midwestern bottomlands and Southeast bayous there are foliage parades that occur across the nation. We call the season "autumn," but "fall" is a very descriptive term especially when the leaves drop.

Finding fall foliage displays is easy nowadays. Many local newspapers and television news casts will highlight nearby autumn displays. With the Internet, finding fall foliage is literally just a click away. Many state parks and tourism departments offer tips or trips to view fall colors. Searching on "fall foliage tours" or "autumn leaf displays" will turn up numerous sites. Here are a few general sites to check.

Recreation.gov links fImageall foliage reports from states and regions with federal camping or recreational areas. Instead of just a scenic byway drive or picnic outing, why not spend a weekend or longer enjoying this spectacular display?

The U.S. Forest Service maintains a fall foliage hotline and Internet links that lead leaf lookers to National Forest sites. Many Forest Service areas are at higher elevations, and these montane sites generally encompass huge swaths of forest. In the West, conifers may dominate these forests, but when the aspens turn, there is gold to be found in the mountains.

The Weather Channel displays fall foliage maps that trace the seasonal changes in state or regional locations. With the foliage displays color coded on the map (green equals not yet, while red indicates peak), a quick glance indicates the seasonal status. Serious leaf lookers also use the forecasts to determine viewing conditions. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also provides information about autumn's blush. And iPhone or Android users can download a free foliage app called the Yankee Magazine Leaf Peepr. The app provides updates on the fall colors.

The Foliage Network links Nature's colorful display with a central information hub. Focused mainly on areas in the Midwest, Northeast and Southeast, this site relies upon reports from local foliage reporters living in the areas.Image

There are also numerous guidebooks and guiding companies that offer information or tours to view the sensational fall colors. And no longer confined to planes, trains and automobiles, bike companies also offer these seasonal tours to ramble through the leaves.

Of course, the easiest way to find fall foliage is to keep an eye on your neighborhood trees and shrubs. But for serious fall foliage fans, there is nothing like a scenic drive through the heartlands of America to enjoy the colors of autumn.


  About Damian Fagan  
Damian FaganDamian is contributing writer to Dave's Garden. He is a freelance writer, hiking guide, gardener and wreath-maker living in Central Oregon. He has published several books including Pacific Northwest Wildflowers and Canyon Country Wildflowers with Globe Pequot Press.

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