Colors are coming: Leaves begin autumn alterations

Fall begins Friday, but changes have already started
Charlton in September 2013.
Charlton in September 2013.

Fall is coming.

So are the fall colors.

The autumnal equinox in the Northern Hemisphere takes place Friday at 4:02 p.m., according to the National Weather Service, and people can celebrate the moment by cheering color changes in sugar maples, red maples, poplars and aspens.

The state of New York on Wednesday issued its second fall foliage report, and spotters say parts of the Adirondacks are already near peak conditions.

Foliage map .jpg

Karl Niklas, a professor of plant biology at Cornell University, believes people will see a vibrant palette of autumn colors this year.

“In general, I think we’re going to have an above-average display of color,” Niklas said. “The trees had a very good growing season throughout the summer. There was adequate water — rain — there were adequate temperatures for tree growth and nutrition and those are the things you really need. You need healthy plants to really produce a really good display of autumnal color. What we need now is a little bit of rain.”

Unusual summer conditions in the Capital Region will not affect the area’s color schedule. There were no 90-degree days in the area during July and August, no sweltering summer heat.

“You don’t really need high temperatures for healthy tree growth,” Niklas said. “Even if you’re in the 60s and 70s, you’re doing fine.

“If you had a cooler-than-average summer, as long as it wasn’t terribly cool or terribly hot, you’re OK,” he added.

One factor that could affect the color show is drought.

“Stressed, the leaves will have a tendency to turn more brown than colorful,” Niklas said. “We don’t want that.”

Color fans won’t have to worry about “tar spot” fungus — which puts black and brown spots on Norway maple leaves — turning down color in their favorite places.

“They get the tar spot almost every year,” Niklas said of the Norways. “This year, it’s more noticeable than average, but that should not affect the overall picture of the leaf coloring.”

Niklas said colors are already changing near his home in the Finger Lakes region of the state. As usual, people can count on the first reds, oranges and yellows in the higher elevations of the Adirondacks. Color changes will take place in lower elevations of the state as fall progresses.

Here are the best bets for color right now in upstate New York, courtesy of field observers from Empire State Development’s “I Love New York” program.

  • In the Adirondacks, spotters in Essex County say Lake Placid can expect near peak conditions this weekend with up to 85 percent color change in the higher elevations of the High Peaks. In the village area, colors are at midpoint — 60 percent. Moderately brilliant shades of orange, yellow, gold, maroon and red will be on display.
  • Foliage is near peak in Old Forge, Herkimer County. Spotters expect 75 percent color change this weekend with bright shades of red, orange and yellow.

There are diversions in both areas, if people drive for leaves this weekend.

Lake Placid’s sixth annual Brewfest will be held Saturday in the historic 1932 rink of the Lake Placid Olympic Center. Tastings will take place from 4 until 8 p.m.

In Old Forge, McCauley Mountain’s Scenic Chairlift will be open for fall foliage viewing.

For more color:

  • In the Tupper Lake and Mt. Arab sections of Franklin County, rapidly transitioning leaves are expected to reach 65 percent to 70 percent color change by the weekend.
  • Saranac Lake spotters in Franklin and Essex Counties say red maples and sugar maples have produced bright red and orange-red colors, respectively. Color changes will reach 65 percent by weekend.
  • In Speculator, Hamilton County, about 50 percent color change is expected and muted shades of red, yellow and orange will be on display.
  • For Long Lake, colors are expected to hit mid-point around the Hamilton County community. Between 40 percent and 45 percent color change is expected by the weekend.
  • In the Catskills, Delaware County spotters expect midpoint to near-peak conditions this weekend and 50 percent color change.
  • Spotters in Cooperstown, Otsego County, predict foliage will soon be at midpoint with 40 percent color transition.
  • Mohawk, in Herkimer County, is at 40 percent with bright orange and red on display.

Locally, colors are just starting to warm up in some areas.

  • In Fulton County, spotters in Northville at Lapland Lake Nordic Vacation Center predict foliage will be near midpoint of change by the weekend with 35 percent to 40 percent color and average shades of red, yellow and orange with some purple.
  • In Schenectady County, Glenville spotters expect less than 20 percent color change by the weekend. Some bright yellow leaves have appeared in trees.
  • Spotters in Howes Cave expect 15 percent color change in Schoharie County.

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124, [email protected] or @jeffwilkin1 on Twitter.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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