October 13, 2015
The long Northwest summer has given way to the slow arrival of fall and the turning of the leaves. Autumn colors are highlighting our sunny days and adding a bit of joy during the rainy ones.
The oft-heard question in the Northwest is when are the leaves at their peak? Now, thanks to a fall foliage map found on the Smokey Mountains National Park website, we can see when the fall colors will be at their best across the nation. They have designed an interactive map which shows where autumn foliage is at its peak.
Tree Science 101
The combination of photosynthesis and Chlorophyll creates the varying colors of green seen in the leaves of deciduous trees. Each leaf of a deciduous tree actually has a non-green color and in the fall, when Chlorophyll production subsides, the red, orange, yellow and brown “true” colors of each leaf begins to show.
To prepare for winter, a deciduous tree protects its limbs, trunk and roots by slowly developing a layer of new cells at the base of each leaf stem. These new cells create a dam which stops water and nutrients from feeding the leaf. The leaf soon dies and falls to the ground, blanketing the dirt and roots beneath the tree thus creating a protective layer against frost and freezing winter temperatures.
The dead leaves begin to slowly break down in the spring, composting into a nutrient mulch which feeds the tree vital nutrients and moisture required for new buds and growth to develop.