Western Mayland fall foliage about to color up due to cooler temps, say foresters

Photo near Grantsville by Melissa Nash, Forester in Garrett and Allegany counties.

Fall days are here – blue skies, clouds like giant marshmallows, and gobs of sunshine. The only thing missing is the cooler daytime temperatures characteristic of fall weather. Crisp autumn air causes leaves to stop making food or stop the process of photosynthesis, which turns the leaves green during warmer months. When the temperature drops, chlorophyll breaks down and the green color begins to disappear, revealing yellows, oranges and in some tree species, purple tones.

Although daytime temperatures across the state were in the 80s last week, nighttime temperatures are dipping into the low 50s and 60s, giving the cooler conditions necessary for leaf change.

This week’s temperature drop across Maryland, setting the stage for fall’s colorful show.

Western Maryland

The western region of our state is taking the lead in gorgeous fall color. Forester Dakota Durcho reports near peak conditions in some tree species: “The trees we typically see change early – black walnut, black gum, and sassafras – have mostly changed at this point. However, most of the other dominant hardwoods in the area such as yellow poplar, hickory, and oak are just now starting to change, some of which can be attributed to dry conditions.”

Mark Spurrier, State Park Ranger Manager, Cunningham Falls and Gambrill State Parks said hickories are just beginning their transition to gold and amber hues.

“The process is just really starting this week, but we suspect it will begin to accelerate with cooler temperatures ahead. Colors are definitely muted this year,” he said.

Melissa Nash, Forester in Garrett and Allegany counties, reports from Grantsville that the ridgetops are nearing the midpoint with a good bit of color beginning to mix with the green. Cooler temperatures and rain in the forecast bodes well for fall color in western Maryland: “The colder weather and a little moisture expected to begin this weekend and into next week should prime everything for the main color show in mid-October.”