Jonesing for an excuse to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway or visit Western North Carolina? If a long weekend in the mountains is in your future, you may want to plan your visit around foliage expert’s color predictions. This year, biologists and naturalists in Western North Carolina and the Asheville area are singing the same tune: Seasonal weather patterns and early climate indicators may trigger the most colorful leaf season in years.
“A long spell of dry weather during the spring and summer could provide some of the most brilliant colors seen in several years for leaf-lookers headed to the mountains of Western North Carolina this autumn,” reported Katherine Mathews, Western Carolina University’s assistant professor of biology specializing in plant systematics.
Extreme elevation variations and biologically diverse microclimates combine to give the Southern Appalachian Mountains one of the longest and most colorful leaf seasons in the country.
Jesse Pope, chief naturalist at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina predicts that color at the highest elevations will begin at the end of September.
“I’m very optimistic about the intensity of color we could see this year. However, the duration and timing of fall greatly depends on these last couple of weeks in September. Rapid changes in temperature could start the color action early,” said pop Pope.
“While there were periods of low rainfall with some higher than normal temperatures, the mountains around Asheville have had plenty of rain toward the end of the summer. With cooler, clear weather moving in this September, fall seems to be setting up nicely,” seconded Parker Andes, director of horticulture at Biltmore in Asheville.
To plan your vacation, consider visiting a site like FallintheMountains.com or a Twitter account like @FallColorHunter, both sponsored by the Asheville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Both will track up-to-the-minute color updates.
[Image courtesy of by Hugh Morton]