Who doesn’t delight in watching a favorite tree’s leaves change each autumn from green to a palette of red, orange, or yellow? This week, we’re watching the process with pleasure and anticipation as color in most parts of the state remains in early stages but beautiful flashes of color emerge statewide. The foliage display is expanding gradually but reliably, most notably in the northeast part of the state and higher elevations along the Green Mountains, manifesting in faded greens and yellows with occasional standout red or orange trees. While entire hillsides haven’t yet begun to change as one colorful canvas, recent sunshine after a stretch of welcome rain is revealing bronze and crimson hues in the canopy. With anticipated cold nights and a mix of sunny days and continued moderate rain in the forecast, we can expect the season to continue on strong, but remember, conditions can change quickly, perhaps even intensifying by the weekend in many places.
Why do leaves change color in fall? This yearly display is the delightful byproduct of deciduous trees preparing for winter, cued by shortening daylength. The green pigment in a tree’s leaves (called chlorophyl) breaks down, exposing yellow pigments (called carotenoids) that have been masked beneath the green in the leaves all along. As the season progresses and fall weather enters the mix, the tree produces red pigments (called anthocyanins) which are thought to protect the leaves from sun and insects during this vulnerable period before the tree drops its leaves and becomes dormant for winter. Finally, the tree forms an abscission layer that creates a wall between the tree and the leaf, making it easy for wind or rain to knock the leaf to the ground. This process plays out over several glorious weeks and here in Vermont, we’re lucky to enjoy the view.
Recreation Recommendations & Best Bets
An adventure in the Northeast Kingdom or high elevations may provide the most color this week. Consider a paddle on Island Pond or nearby Spectacle Pond and relax at Brighton State Park, or a day hike at Wheeler Mountain in Barton. If you’re in the southern part of the state, enjoy a hike and the stunning views at high-elevation Woodford State Park.