It’s that time of year again. Red and orange and yellow everywhere, and that’s just in the stores. Take a step out of town, into the forest and the palette of hues is even broader.
As colder weather sets in and the days get shorter, the amount of light available for photosynthesis decreases. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert light into chemical energy and is responsible for the green pigmentation attributed to chlorophyll. Though there are numerous factors that contribute to the degradation of chlorophyll in leaves, it is the decrease in available light that is the primary reason for the change in color. With diminished levels of chlorophyll, other pigments in the leaves begin to emerge resulting in the warmer array of colors typical of fall.
Generally in northern Pennsylvania, the autumn foliage hits peak coloration between the October 9 and 16. Depending on the weather, those dates may vary some. But, as Chris Firestone, forester with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry noted, sometimes people say there are two peaks in Tioga county. The first, coming when the northern hardwoods, such as the maples, which tend to grow on the northern side of the hills, begin to change. Following the change in the maples comes the yellowing of trees like oaks which tend to grow on the southern side of the hills, said Firestone.
As for the foliage this year, it’s already fast approaching peak colors. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry foliage report for the week of Oct. 3–9, fall color continues to show in the Susquehannock State Forest as shades of red and golden leaves emerge in the Tioga State Forest. Colton, Painter-Leetonia, and West Rim roads are beginning to provide quality viewing.
The leaves are still approaching best color in the northern parts of the state, while south of Lycoming County they are still just starting to change.
“This year will be better than last year, for sure. We have had some moisture. I don’t think it will be a super great year, but I would say average,” said Eric Monger, forester with Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry.
While the tree leaves are dying, not all plant-life is ready to call it a year. There still wild goldenrods and an assortment of flowers that bloom this time of year. “The thing I appreciate is that they are there for a lot of the pollinators for the butterflies and the bees,” said Firestone.
To find the best locations for foliage viewing check out the DCNR interactive map at http://maps.dcnr.pa.gov/storymaps/fallfoliage/