WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – The peak foliage season – summer’s final bow until its starring role next year – is almost upon Westchester County. But extreme weather in the past several months, including a spike in temperatures in March and dry weather throughout spring and summer – might have an effect on the vibrancy of the anticipated fall leaf colors.
Master gardener Maggie Pichura, the environmental educator at Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, said that because of less rainfall, especially in early spring, “The colors may not be as vivid as in other years.”
“It looks as if the spring’s impact will take away some of the vibrancy to the leaves, but we’ve had some nice weather last week, which is why the leaves began to change almost at once,” Pichura said.
Every fall deciduous trees drop their leaves to prevent water loss during the winter, when water is not available either from the ground or from frozen precipitation. Whether the doomed leaves put on a show of color depends on temperature and moisture. “Both can vary quite a bit on their own, but together they determine what kind of fall color we will have,” Pichura said.
Optimal conditions for colorful leaves also come from warm, wet springs and summer conditions that are not too dry and not too hot, as well as from sunny fall days combined with cool nighttime temperatures.
“Some trees have already browned out along the edges of their leaves,” said Pichura. And some, she said, are beginning to drop their leaves quickly, now that evening temperatures are dipping into the 50s.
But there could be variations of color intensity within specific areas. “Within our region there are microclimates,” Pichura said. Additionally, weather can be sporadic; one area may receive more rainfall than an adjacent one, and this determines how long trees hold onto their leaves. Hard wiring – geology and soil conditions – are why not all trees’ leaves turn the same colors.
Pichura demurs on predicting specifics of the peak foliage season, which, in Westchester County, will begin as early as next week. “Whether or not it is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ season depends on the beholder,” she said.
“I try to get enjoyment out of what I’m a witness to in nature anytime,” said Pichura. Sound advice, leaves or no leaves.