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Leaf peeping: Fall color season is upon us


August 24. 2013 7:01AM
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LIMA — The change of seasons is about to have some visual impact.



Fall color is beginning to pop in the region and elsewhere in the state, with the biggest punch of color expected in the first and second weeks of October.



Casey Burdick, fall color forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, said we’re on track for a grand season.



“Right now, any color that folks are seeing around is caused by the drought conditions we’ve had this summer,” she said.



The lack of rain has caused some leaves to dry prematurely and begin to fall off the trees.



“Barring any heavy rainstorms or large windstorms, we should still be able to have a fairly nice fall color season,” Burdick said.



The first color to expect is from vines — poison ivy and Virginia creeper. They turn a bright glossy red, Burdick said. Look around fencerows for those plants.



Around that same times comes the Buckeye tree.



“They kind of turn a goldish color,” she said.



Next in line: maples.



“Those are going to probably be about the second one. They can be the yellow, the gold or the red,” she said.



Science lesson



“True fall color is brought on by the shortening of the days,” Burdick said. “What happens is, as the days get shorter, the flow of nutrients through the trees starts to kind of slow down.”



The tree is getting ready for winter, essentially. The sluggish movement of the fluids in the tree triggers the next reaction.



“The sugars that are produced in the leaves start to kind of thicken up,” she said. “When that happens, the very fine veins within the leaves, they get weighed down with a lot of sugar.



“The place where the leaf stem reaches the branch of the tree, that becomes clogged up,” she said. “When that becomes clogged up, those sugars are trapped within the leaf itself. And that triggers a chemical reaction that breaks down that green chlorophyll.”



Deciduous trees — the trees with broad leaves that change color — have shallow circulation systems that are just beneath the bark, Burdick said.



“They would freeze to death, basically, if they didn’t go through this process,” she said.



Conifers — pine trees with needle-type leaves — also have systems that slow down but they can still move nutrients.



“Some of them will have a little bit of a brown appearance, and they’ll drop their older leaves every couple of years,” Burdick said.



Prediction



Burdick predicts a good fall color season because of the weather.



“The temperatures have been right for it,” she said.



The key is having bright, sunny days in September with cool evenings, which is what has happened.



“That’s really what collects the most sugar in the leaf,” she said.



Burdick also predicts a lot of interest in fall color this year — but be sure to time it correctly. Northern Ohio is generally finished with the show by late October.



“It was so hot this summer, so a lot of people didn’t get out,” she said. “Now the temperatures are cooling off around Ohio. We have so much diversity in our trees, it’s hard not to look out and see how pretty it is.”



 





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