Despite hot, dry summer, fall foliage off to promising start

CHARLOTTE, N.C — Despite drought concerns and an extremely warm summer, the fall colors are off to a promising start this season in the Appalachians.

Vibrant colors have already peaked in some of the highest elevations of North Carolina, at 3,000 feet and above. Areas like Linville and through the foothills can expect peak conditions through the end of October.

Although places like Hickory, Asheville and even Boone are in one of their driest years on record, Grandfather Mountain Executive Director Jesse Pope is impressed with the season so far.

“Typically, what happens in drought years is that you see browning of the leaves with no color, and they fall off early. Certain species, such as oak, will usually do that. But we already have oaks with yellow and red coloration in them, so that bodes well,” Pope said.

(Photo courtesy: Grandfather Mountain)

As we head into the heart of the fall season, cooler temperatures overnight help kick start the changing colors. In Charlotte, overnight lows continue to drop, with 40-50s expected through the rest of the week.

Those cooler temperatures are the triggers that will stop the process of photosynthesis. Once that stops, chlorophyll breaks down to a color state and releases the chemicals that displays the color.

Heading deeper into the Piedmont, color near Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Raleigh won’t see the peak color until the beginning of November.