Dry spell means fall will come later than usual

By Cody Neff

Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY, W.Va. – While humans won’t be able to enjoy the changing of the seasons as much as they’d like, woodland critters are going to have a field day, according to U.S. Division of Forestry forester said.

“Normally, when the seasons change, leaves will fall on the acorns and the rest of the mast to hide the food from animals,” forester Jeff Kochenderfer said. “Now, they can eat as much as they want without the food being hidden.”

The lack of falling leaves also means that birds and other creatures that like treetops will be hidden due to the thicker canopy of leaves that has yet to fall.

Since things have been unusually dry lately, the seasons aren’t changing like they’re supposed to, Kochenderfer said.

“I was up in the higher elevations of the state today,” he said. “There’s still a lot of green left up there.”

The green in a leaf is caused by a chemical called “chlorophyll.” If your seventh-grade science is rusty, that’s the stuff that absorbs sunlight to make food for plants.

When nature is putting out less sunlight, there’s less need for chlorophyll. This lack of the green-chemical causes the underlying colors of the leaf to come out.

That’s where the color-changing of the seasons takes place.

“The underlying color, whether it’s red, brown or yellow, is determined by the sugar content in the leaves,” Kochenderfer said. “I think it’s fascinating because you can have variations in colors among the trees. Even within the same species of trees, you might see a deeper red than the identical tree next to it.”

Right now, leaves are falling without changing, Kochenderfer said, but with rain on the way, things should start to change soon.

He couldn’t give a definite time frame, but he said he was hopeful that nature lovers will be able to enjoy fall foliage soon.

According to the West Virginia Division of Tourism’s gotowv.com, leaf-peeping opportunities for the Columbus Day weekend are limited. Overall, there is very little color change in West Virginia. Some color is reported at Bald Knob.

Throughout the coming week, leaves in the highest elevations should take on color, including those in the Davis-Thomas area of Tucker County. Foliage at Spruce Knob, the highest point in West Virginia, should be changing colors, as should the leaves at elevations above 3,000 feet in Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Randolph and Webster counties.

A few points of interest where color should be anticipated in the next week or so include the Sinks of Gandy and Dry Fork, Cheat Mountain, Shavers Mountain, the headwaters of Tygart Valley River, the headwaters of both Forks of the Greenbrier River, Kennison Mountain and Elk Mountain.

According to farmersalmanac.com,ideal conditions for spectacular coloring are a warm, dry summer followed by a rainy autumn. In autumn, warm, sunny days with cool nights trigger brilliant color formations. An early frost lessens the intensity of red. Rainy or overcast days intensify the brilliancy of color. A cool, clear day is always best for viewing.

— Email: [email protected]; Follow on Twitter @RHCodyNeff

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