During this last full week of September, I saw evidence that Autumn’s first stages of leaf color are getting started here in the Smokies. We have some time before mother nature is at her peak, but as leaf viewers know, that time is approaching. In the past week, only the first few leaves were beginning to drop and decorate the roadways. Early participants in leaf color, like the American Dogwoods, were shifting from deep green to a muted ruddy red. So for all the leaf-viewing enthusiasts who may be reading this blog, get ready, the show is starting.
The unique feature of leaf viewing in mountains like the Smokies, is that leaf color begins at the peaks with highest elevation. It works down the mountains with the valleys at the lowest elevation getting their fall color last. This elevation feature adds a prolonged period of fall color over other parts of the country where most trees sit at roughly the same elevation making them come into color and drop off in approximately the same time frame.
As most leaf-color enthusiasts know, each year is unique in it’s; time table for peak color, length of time before leaves drop, and in the intensity of the fall color. Scientists have sought out the keys to leaf color, yet much is still unknown. However, the pre-dominant scientific opinion favors the ratio of daylight to darkness as the major trigger in bringing on leaf color. Other environmental factors like; temperature, rainfall, etc. play a roll, but not as major an influence as the length of daily light vs. darkness. I feel that an area’s major weather pattern occuring at the peak of autumn color can definitely influence how long the brilliant colored leaves remain on the trees. For instance, a mild weather pattern with little precipitation and minimal wind is less likely to rapidly bring down leaves. However, a turbulent system of weather accompanied by alot of ; rain, hail, or snow driven by gale force winds can strip the fall color to bare limbs in almost one day.
Leaf color is unique to each species of deciduous plant and can vary among members of a plant species. The colors come from pigments generated through chlorophyll and the photosynthesis process of harnessing sunlight to make sugars within the leaf. Other pigments in tree and plant leaves come from carotenoids and anthocyanins which are compounds that provide color like the orange hue of a carrot. Each species has the same basic pigments and the same general time table for leaf change. The southern Sourwoods turn early in late summer when other trees are still deep green, while oaks put on their color when much of the forest has shed it’s leaves. Once the sugar manufacturing in the leaves has stored up enough plant sugar to see a leafless tree through it’s winter dormancy, the fluid-carrying veins in the leaf stem dry up and seal off allowing the leaf to lose moisture and fall off. After the spectacular color show of Autumn is through, the grand recycling operation begins. Fallen leaves provide dry, insulating,nesting or den material for forest animals. Other leaves become a food source for molds and fungi enabling a better breakdown that releases valuable minerals and nutrients for the growth and energy of next years forest.
For me this beautiful fall leaf display is a gentle reminder to finish projects before another year ends. If one of your projects is to purchase or sell property here in the Smokies before this year ends, then be sure to contact the Jason White Team. We have up-to-date real estate expertise and knowledge of the Smoky Mountains area. This is a winning combination to find you the real estate you desire.