2017 foliage season pales in comparison to 2016

Proof is in the pictures
The view of trees changing color off Interstate 88 in Cobleskill on Oct. 13, 2017.
The view of trees changing color off Interstate 88 in Cobleskill on Oct. 13, 2017.

Things change. So do autumn colors — from year to year.

On Oct. 13, 2016, Daily Gazette photographer Peter R. Barber took a fall foliage photo in Cobleskill. The picture was brilliant — Barber focused on a small homestead nestled in an autumn candy bowl. The scene included bright reds, oranges and yellows and a little bit of burgundy.

Barber returned to the same place on Friday, exactly one year after he took the first photo. The new picture validates what foliage experts have been saying since September — this year’s seasonal colors have been toned way, way down.

There are a few dots of color in Barber’s latest photo, but most of the trees are stuck on green.

“We’re seeing much more muted colors, and a lot of that has to do with the weather changes that have taken place in September,” said Nina Bassuk, a professor and program leader of the Urban Horticulture Institute at Cornell University.

Nature has not followed the color equation this season.

“The two triggers that are important for fall colors are the shortening days and the cool nighttime temperatures,” added Bassuk, also a board member on the New York State Urban Forestry Council. “We haven’t had much of the cool nighttime temperatures. In fact, September was inordinately hot. It was also very dry.”

Bright colors are still visible in some sections of the Adirondacks, but they won’t stick around much longer.

In the latest “I Love New York” fall foliage report, issued every Wednesday during early autumn by Empire State Development, spotters predicted that this weekend will be last call for peak colors in the Whiteface Mountain, Tupper Lake and Lake Placid areas.

“We’re sort of stuck in the middle, in the midpoint range of foliage change,” said Eric Scheffel of Empire State Development, in an interview earlier this week. He was referring to colors in the Capital Region.

“We’ve got some reports of near-peak coming in from Lapland Lake in Northville,” he added.

Saratoga County locations are expected to be near peak this weekend. Albany County is at mid-stage; some spots in Schenectady County are at the 35 to 40 percent-of-change stage.

Bassuk said people might not see much color.

“The drought in September caused some leaves to fall before they could change color, but I think it was the lack of cool nights,” she said. “In some places, you can look at some hills and it could be July.”

Some hills in Cobleskill might be considered for such a summer scenery, but Bassuk said a rally could still happen.

“Everything is kind of pushed back,” she said. “It’s either going to be kind of an olive green-yellow color, or we may get some later colors.”

While the late show may not debut until late October or early November. Bassuk said there is one truth certain: “Pretty much everywhere, the color is poor this year,” she said.

Bassuk added that ash trees are about finished with fall. Maples are also on the way to winter — bare branches until spring.

Other forces could spoil late color. Wind and hard rains will ground any blooming reds or oranges.

“Leaves are kind of walling off the connection between the branch and the leaf,” Bassuk said. “They do this active process. When they get very weak, when basically this walling off has happened, the leaves fall. And if they’re close to that point where they fall, a hard rain or wind will push them over the edge.”

A light rain will help.

“The soil has been bone dry,” Bassuk said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County


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