Foliage turning early for some types of trees, but good season forecast

Foliage turning early for some types of trees, but good season forecast

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Those who enjoy looking at fall foliage should see better color this year than the past couple of years, and it may come a little sooner for some types of trees.

A drought that plagued the Northeast for nearly two years stressed trees in many areas, causing them to drop leaves prematurely and show little color change.

This year, though, lots of rain in spring and early summer ended the drought and made for a more normal summer for color-producing trees. Some maple trees, though, are turning early for reasons that are not clear.

Pete Olesheski, senior naturalist at Up Yonda Farm in Bolton, said conditions are setting up for a better fall of leaf peeping this year than the past couple of years.

Trees are not stressed by the weather as they were in 2015 and 2016, he said.

“I think there will be better colors,” he said. “When it was so dry, some of the leaves just turned brown.”

Other than a dry spell in August, trees got plenty of water the rest of the year.

Donald Leopold, a biology professor at SUNY’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said foliage on some types of trees seems to be progressing more quickly than on others, however.

“This fall color season is a bit abnormal in upstate New York based on what I’m seeing as I travel about,” Leopold said. “Some species like the oaks and hickories and birches aren’t showing any signs of early coloration but individuals of the sugar and red maples, two of the most dominant contributors to the outstanding fall colors in New York, are weeks ahead of their average coloration.”

Cold temperatures can cause some species to turn more quickly, and parts of the Adirondacks had some cold mornings in recent weeks that included mornings where lows dropped to the 30s.

But cold mornings are common in the Adirondacks in September.

Eric Scheffel, spokesman for state tourism organization I Love New York, which compiles weekly foliage reports in the fall, said conditions seem to be shaping up for a good foliage season.

“We’ve had moderate temperatures and good rain, and those are good indicators of color,” Scheffel said.

Columbus Day weekend is typically viewed as the peak foliage period in the southern Adirondacks.

The Adirondacks seemed to be on schedule as of the middle of this week, with about 15 to 25 percent color change, while parts of the Catskills and Mohawk Valley have some color as well.

Maples are often the trees that turn earliest, particularly red maples in wet areas. But this year’s damp early summer helped foster a maple disease in some areas known as “tar spot” where a fungus causes trees to get black spots and drop their leaves.

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