13 October 2023- We’re feeling a drop in temperatures across the state, with parts of Western Maryland dipping into the low 30s. Cooler temperatures and sunny days bode well for leaf change. According to the U.S. Forest Service, trees are continuing to produce sugars in their leaves, but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins in leaves prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions – lots of sugar and light – spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint leaves with a variety of reds, purples, and crimson. However, optimal fall weather conditions cannot entirely undo the effects of this year’s summer drought, which is amounting to delays in leaf change and subdued color in the forest canopies.
Melissa Nash, Forester in Garrett and Allegany counties, reports, “I think we are still on track to peak at the end of this week, but I don’t think it’s going to result in dramatic color this year. We are still seeing more yellow and gold tones as opposed to vibrant oranges and reds. I do anticipate the cool temperatures (lows in the 30s/40s) will help transition some of the trees that are still green.”
Sean Nolan, Forest Manager, at Savage River State Forest sees progress among the leaves in Northern Garrett County. “We’ve seen quite a change this week,” Nolan said. “The higher elevation areas are nearing peak, but recent rain and wind have brought many leaves down. The sugar and red maples are showing good colors, but the oaks are still very green.”
“The recent cold temperatures along with the rainy and windy conditions have coaxed a substantial number of leaves from the canopy, especially among red maples and sugar maples, with some trees already devoid of foliage. The black birch, sassafras, and black gum are displaying a wide spectrum of colors on Piney Mountain,” reports Scott Campbell, Forest Manager at Potomac-Garrett State Forest.
The fall transition is moving a little more slowly in Frederick where Bob Study, Park Ranger Supervisor, is seeing “mostly green with hints of gold and crimson just starting to peek through the treetops” at Fort Frederick State Park.