The stage is set for a spectacular fall color season in the southern Appalachians thanks to a lack of drought or extreme weather this summer, Clemson University forest ecologist Don Hagan said in his annual fall foliage forecast.
“We had enough rainfall during the summertime where these trees aren’t really going into the fall with much drought stress — but with these cooler temperatures that we have right now, we can expect to start seeing those colors developing pretty quickly,” said Hagan, who has been making fall foliage predictions for Clemson for eight years.
As Hagan stood on the Courthouse Valley Overlook on the first day of fall in September — an elevation of 5,365 feet, with the temperatures barely reaching 50 by midday — he said the first fall colors would develop in the deciduous trees at higher elevations and begin to make their way down the mountain at a rate of roughly 1,000 feet per week.
Some of the first trees where fall color will begin to display itself will be species that turn yellow: the yellow buckeye, for example, has already begun to turn brown. Yellow birch and black birch will soon start to show hints of yellow, while other species such as the mountain ash will also begin to add color to the palette of hues in the coming days.
Maples started turning their trademark oranges and reds at the beginning of October, while oaks will join the color parade later in the month. Many of the same species exist further down the mountain, where yellow poplars typically change fairly early into fall weather along with maples, sourwood, dogwoods and other species.
Hagan’s top three spots for viewing fall foliage are:
- Blue Ridge Parkway: From higher elevations (>4500 feet) you’ll be able to see great fall foliage at the elevations below.
- Highway 11/Table Rock State Park: There’s a dramatic change in elevation along the edge of Hwy. 11. By late October, you’ll see good fall color spilling down from these higher elevations.
- Clemson Experimental Forest: With miles of trails, it’s a great place for hiking, exploring and enjoying fall color in late October through the end of the fall color season in November.
“In a good season, no matter what elevation you are, you could potentially see that full spectrum of fall colors — all the way from yellow to purple, hopefully happening right there at the same time,” said Hagan.
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