Leaf peeper update: Color change progress slow

A collection of leaves from various plants and trees in Maine (North America / New England). Photographed on a white background and composited.

Warm summer temperatures and inconsistent spring precipitation have made for a slower changing of leaves from summer green to the browns, yellows and reds associated with autumn, said Woody Searles, a park ranger in Shenandoah National Park.

While this time of the year is when leaf-related tourism tends to be hitting its stride, Searles said that those who have booked trips hoping for vibrant color may come away disappointed.

“It’s still very green, there are a few little spots here and there,” Searles said. “We haven’t had a real hard freeze up here and that’s one of the things that triggers the color change. The warm weather this year really hasn’t helped things much. … There are a few little pockets where you see leaves changing color but for the most part there’s still a lot of green up here.”

Due to the fact that October is Shenandoah National Park’s busiest month of the year, with even more expected this year to celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, accommodations are often booked well in advance. Given the nature of foliage-driven tourism, timing is crucial. For those who have been looking forward to a trip full of early Autumn leaf peeping, they may be out of luck this weekend.

“I would say this coming weekend it’s still probably going to be pretty green,” Searles said. “We were in the 40s today (Wednesday), but a hard freeze isn’t predicted any time soon.”

Searles explained the factors behind the sluggish progress.

“The summer temperatures affect it to a certain point, the amount of water we have and when we get that water, the overnight temperatures affects it,” he said “Those are all factors. The fact that we had a very dry March and April and a very wet May and the fact that we had a very hot summer have all had an impact on the trees.”

Contact staff writer Nathan Budryk at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or nbudryk@nvdaily.com