Is anyone noticing early fall color on local area trees? The region is now just weeks away from beautiful fall foliage.
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If you have already been seeing some color peeking out in recent weeks, you're not alone. Fall colors really begin to show in the month of October, with the peak occurring as soon as early October in the Mountains, and mid to late October closer to the D.C. Metro area. Two pictures below already show the big difference in color between the local area (Vienna, Westwood CC - Middle Picture) and the Northeast (New Hampshire - Bottom Picture).
- Average Peak Fall Color in D.C.
The reason leaves change color is because of the colder days and approaching winter. As daylight gets shorter and temperatures start to drop, the leaves recoup nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. It's the chlorophyll in the leaves that give them their green color through the growing season. Chlorophyll is an essential compound for photosynthesis, which is a process that converts sunlight to carbohydrates.
- Taken by James Joslyn in Vienna at Westwood Country Club
Leaves are also made up of carotenoids. Carotenoids produce yellow, brown, and orange colors. They are always present in the leaves, but you only start to see them when the chlorophyll process stops. The chlorophyll process stops when temperatures start to drop, which is when the carotenoid colors are revealed.
- Taken by Erik Ruediger at the Edward MacDowell Reservoir in New Hampshire
Wondering where the red and purple hues come from? These colors are the anthocyanins, which are a bit less understood by tree scientists. Some scientists are suggesting, though, that because of the moderate drought there are increased concentrations of these anthocyanins in the leaves, which will lead to some very vibrant hues of reds and purples in the leaves.
Want to learn how to photograph fall foliage? Here is a great blog by the Digital Photography School on exactly what you need to do.