RISMEDIA, September 17, 2010—In the tricky business that is forecasting the whims of Mother Nature, it is rare that experts agree as they make fall color predictions. This year, biologists and naturalists in Western North Carolina and the Asheville area are singing the same tune: Seasonal weather patterns and early climate indicators may trigger the most colorful leaf season in years.
Fall Color Wars: Scientifically Substantiated Bias
Extreme elevation variations and biologically diverse microclimates combine to give the Southern Appalachian Mountains one of the longest and most colorful leaf seasons in the country. Regional experts weigh in on who has the best fall color:
“New England’s color comes primarily from birch, beech and maple—a beautiful, bright autumn display with big blotches of color. But, the South has more than 100 species of deciduous trees. The combination of topography and color diversity here can make our fall colors spectacular. Out West you see more evergreens and yellow, but you don’t get a lot of that vibrant red that makes up the eastern fall patchwork. I’ve lived in the Northeast and the West, and I think North Carolina has some of the best fall color in the country,” said Dr. Howie Neufeld, professor of plant physiology at Appalachian State University.
“The mountains of Western N.C. have the most forest diversity of anywhere in the country, which gives us a uniquely broad range of fall color and a longer season. From the yellows of cucumber magnolias around Balsam Mountain to the burgundy of black gums along the Davidson River, there is a rainbow of colors to be seen here. And, because of the different altitudes, microclimates and mild weather, visitors can always find good color and lots of activities throughout the region,” said Parker Andes, director of horticulture at Biltmore in Asheville.
Timing Your Fall Vacation
“We’re already starting to see signs of color at the highest elevations here at the end of September. Our American ash trees are beginning to tinge with purple and the bright red berries on the mountain ashe are putting on a good show. Leaf peepers should look for high elevation habitats to color-up first, such as heath balds on mountain ridges,” said Jesse Pope, chief naturalist at Grandfather Mountain.
“I’m very optimistic about the intensity of color we could see this year. However, the duration and timing of fall greatly depends on these last couple of weeks in September. Rapid changes in temperature could start the color action early, and we want to avoid wind events that would stress and prematurely down the leaves,” continued Pope.
Weekly Fall Color Reports
To help visitors locate where the autumn color is peaking from week-to-week, the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau is working with park officials, attractions and biologists around the region to compile weekly fall color reports for the mountains of Western North Carolina at FallintheMountains.com. Asheville’s fall color experts will also be tweeting up-to-the-minute color updates, travel tips and deals at @FallColorHunter on Twitter.
For more information, visit www.fallinthemountains.com.