As days get shorter and nights become chillier, the annual fall foliage show is getting under way in the Southeast.
The first colors are beginning to show in the higher elevations of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is a popular draw for tourists in October.
Expect a good show, said Janet Rock, a botanist in the Smokies.
“As long as we stay on track with the weather we’ve had, it should be a good year,” said Rock.
Here’s the fall foliage outlook for four states in the Appalachian Mountain region.
Smokies spokeswoman Molly Schroar noted yellow birch, American beech, mountain maple and hobblebush have begun turning high in the mountains, giving a hint of the rich show to come. But Shroar suggested looking down now and then, to see black-eyed Susans, purple asters, goldenrod and other fall flowers just hitting their peak.
“We’re getting teased a little bit by Mother Nature now,” said Cindy Dupree of the Tennessee Department of Tourism as she looked out her car window at hits of red sumac and golds in the maples. “It won’t be long until it’s spectacular.”
“On down in the Chattanooga area, that gets just as pretty as I’ve seen anywhere,” Dupree said.
VIRGINIA: ABUNDANCE OF
With terrain varying from the mountains to the coast, Virginia offers an array of hues for leafpeepers as 15 million acres of foliage change colors.
Expect yellow and maroon on ash trees, scarlet to purple on the state’s dogwoods, and golden bronze on hickories. Virginia’s red maples offer brilliant scarlet colors, beech trees feature yellow to orange leaves, poplars present a golden yellow, and reds, browns and russet colors from the state’s oaks.
“This year should be a spectacular year because of the summer weather conditions,” said Richard Lewis, a spokesman from the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “It’s going to produce a lot of very vivid foliage.
Peak colors are expected in the western mountains during midto-late October and in the central and eastern parts of Virginia during late October and early November.
KENTUCKY: HOPE FOR RED
The mountainous areas of eastern Kentucky typically put on the best fall color show in the state, thanks to the variety of species and dense canopy. The first color transformations of the season are happening on dogwoods, sourgums and tulip poplars, which are showing yellows.
“I think we can always count on a fair degree of color in Kentucky, especially in the east, because of this envious mix of trees that we have,” said Dean Henson, naturalist at Pine Mountain State Park in southeastern Kentucky. He said the forests there have up to 35 species of leaf-dropping trees.
The dry summer hasn’t hurt the state’s prospects for a colorful fall, but the weather over the next two weeks will determine if the most desirable colors — the reds and purples — come out this year, Henson said.
STARTING TO SHOW
The Blue Ridge Mountains are famous for showing their true colors each fall, drawing visitors from around the globe. And with dry summer days soon to be followed by cool summer nights, those bright colors may be coming sooner.
North Carolina’s foliage season starts in earnest in the high mountain areas in October and runs through mid-November, with colors cascading down to lower elevations throughout the month. In the highest areas, sourwoods are turning red, while maples are changes to shades of yellow, orange and red. High bush blueberries are turning a deep red, while sassafras is starting to turn its usual mixture of the same colors.
“Following one of the hottest summers on record, the North Carolina Piedmont is looking forward to a beautiful fall season,” says Dick Thomas of the Piedmont Environmental Center.