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In living color: Local fall foliage season has yet to peak

A maple tree showing off beautiful fall colors.

Residents and visitors alike appreciate the colors that adorn hillsides and line rural roadways every fall in Warren County.

This year’s fall foliage show should be a good one — if heavy rains and high winds don’t knock leaves down.

The foliage season will peak in two or three weeks.

“We’re just getting started,” Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry Cornplanter District Forester Cecile Stelter said. “There is a little bit of color we’re starting to see in some of the maples and some of the sumac alongside the road.”

“I think we’re on track for our normal fall foliage season as far as timing,” Stelter said. “Folks are really going to see some color by the 15th of October and that color is going to continue through Halloween.”

Early in the season, maples and aspens will turn. Toward the end, it will be the oaks and beeches, she said.

The brilliance or lack thereof in a season depends on weather conditions through the summer and into early fall.

“Temperature and moisture are the two main influences,” Stelter said. “I think we’re sitting in a pretty good place to have some very nice fall foliage.”

“We didn’t have a drought this summer, so the leaves are not stressed out,” she said. “We did have some rain.”

Heavy rains and high winds make more leaves fall from trees earlier.

“If we can get some warm, sunny days with cool, but not freezing, nights, that’s going to bring on the best color,” Stelter said.

Whether particularly spectacular or not, the usual show of reds and golds, purples, oranges, and browns, will be on display.

“The reason why the trees are changing color — it’s the trees’ response to shorter days and a declining intensity of sunlight,” she said. “People are starting to recognize it themselves. It’s getting darker earlier. The sun’s not quite as bright. The trees response by producing less chlorophyll — the green pigment. With less green, the other colors show.”

“We will always get fall color. Here in Pennsylvania, we have somewhere around 120 different species of native trees,” she said. “I think that’s what makes Pennsylvania such a beautiful state to go out and check out the fall foliage. We’re always going to have a mix just because of our native species.”

Some places I would recommend in our area — on the ANF, the Longhouse National Scenic Byway is named appropriately because it is scenic,” she said. “Kinzua Bridge State Park has a beautiful vantage point. For driving, I would encourage people to take some of the back roads, and Route 6, Route 62, and Triple Sixes (Route 666) are among my favorite places to go leaf-peeping.”

Sunny days are the best. While Stelter said the old saying, “rainy days wash out the color of the leaves” is not accurate, bright sunlight is best for seeing color intensity.

“This is a great time to be out on Penn’s Woods,” Stelter said. “I would encourage people to — whether it’s down their favorite street or on their favorite hiking trail — get out and enjoy.”

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