Marion Fall Colors 2015
As the days cool and the long days of summer shorten into the crisp days of autumn, Mother Nature puts on a magnificent display here in the Appalachian Mountains. And, thanks to rains that occurred throughout the summer, the Town of Marion and Smyth, Washington and Wythe counties may be ground zero for the best fall color displays of the year.
The display of fall colors varies every year due to a complex recipe that includes the health of the forest, how much rain has occurred during the growing season, short-term weather and temperature, etc. 2015 has been a dry year for much of the Appalachians, with the exception of South West Virginia where our rainfall has been near normal – if not slightly above. Most locations in the Central and Southern Appalachians have been abnormally dry or even in moderate drought and this has resulted in some stress to the forests and many trees have started the annual process of revealing their fall colors earlier than usual – due to that stress.
With plenty of rain in our area throughout the growing season, the forests of South West Virginia are expected to put on one of the best displays anywhere in the Appalachians.
What makes the fall colors?
The fall colors that we see in the leaves are the result of the breakdown of the chlorophyll that provides the leaves with their typical green color. This process is started by the increasing length of night and shorter daylight hours that we start to experience in late summer and early fall. As the trees prepare themselves for winter, the production of chlorophyll slows and then stops. The result is that green is no longer the dominant color, and the other colors in the leaves become visible.
If you enjoy the golden glow provided by the yellow leaves in the fall forest, you can thank the yellow pigments in the leaves – called xanthophylls – for the beautiful display.(The word comes from Greek: xanthos – yellow and phyllon – leaf.)
The vibrant orange leaves are the result of orange pigments called carotenoids and the vibrant reds and purples are the result of pigments knows as anthocyanins. If you would like to learn more about the science of autumn color, click here
* Collins House Inn B & B Contributing Meteorologist Pam McCown Asheville