It’s officially autumn, and the trees have taken note, their leaves beginning to change from green to fiery hues.
Leaf peepers have started to come out of hibernation, eager to lay eyes on red, orange and gold landscapes.
Right now, local fall foliage fans will need to commute, since broad-leaved trees in the immediate Capital Region are still predominantly green.
Autumn color is expected to peak in this area around Columbus Day, according to Eric Scheffel, spokesman for the I Love NY fall foliage report.
Scheffel predicts a spectacular autumn, unlike some the region has seen when very hot summers have stressed the trees, causing premature leaf drop.
“We’re starting our fall with the leaves on the trees, which is where they should be,” he said.
The trees are revealing their vibrant colors a little later this year than last, he said, but those eager to get a jump on fall’s spectacle can head to Fulton County, where the trees are exhibiting between 50 and 75 percent color change, especially in the higher elevations.
The Adirondack Mountains are also sporting autumn hues. According to the I Love NY weekly fall foliage report, color change there ranged from 35 to 50 percent last weekend.
“We’ve got a great variety of trees and we’ve got a huge state, so you can travel around from late September to early November and catch multiple peak periods across the state,” Scheffel said.
According to the 2013 Farmers’ Almanac, this year, New York state is predicted to have the longest span of peak foliage dates of any state in the country, from Sept. 28 through Oct. 28.
The phone’s been ringing at AAA Northway in Schenectady, where leaf peepers started asking for destination suggestions mid-month, according to spokesman Eric Stigberg.
He suggests heading to Stowe, Vt., or Lake Placid to catch early color.
Last weekend, Lake Placid was at about 25 percent leaf transition, according to the I Love NY foliage report. The website www.vermont.com reported that Stowe’s fall foliage was still in its early stages Monday.
To avoid disappointment, Stigberg advised leaf peepers to check tourism websites for foliage reports before heading out.
Warm, sunny fall days, cool nights and a waning amount of daylight combine to offer the perfect recipe for fall color, said Scott Kirkton, an associate professor of biology at Union College.
The frost that was forecast to hit parts of the Capital Region early this morning could help to speed up the show, he added.
Kirkton explained that chlorophyll, a chemical necessary for photosynthesis, makes leaves appear green during spring and summer. As the days grow shorter and the nights cooler, chlorophyll production stops. As chlorophyll dwindles, yellows and oranges produced by other chemicals in the leaves are revealed.
Stressed trees, like those invaded by boring insects or disease, often lose their leaves and their fall color sooner than healthy trees, he noted.
The next weekend is still a ways away, but National Weather Service Meteorologist Luigi Meccariello predicts that the weather will be ideal for leaf peeping — tranquil, with temperatures in the Capital Region ranging from the upper 60s to low 70s both days. In the Adirondacks, temperatures will be slightly lower, in the upper 60s. The next chance of rain is forecast for Sunday afternoon.