Leaf colors flourish in average fall weather

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Shorter days are among the first signals notifying trees to stop producing chlorophyll.

Kristen Marks said sunny days and cool nights with moderate rainfall will really bring out the vibrant fall colors. Marks is the program manager at Centerville-Washington Park District.

“Our walnuts, our black locust, our hickories, those are starting to change over,” Marks said, “and then as we go through the fall, those sugar maples will put on the best show.”

Walking through Bill Yeck Park you may notice a lot of leaves from walnut trees and sugar maples already on the trail. Many fell last Wednesday when a 31 mph wind gust was recorded in Dayton.

“That wind can take the leaves down prematurely and then we don’t have the show we’ve come to love,” Marks said

Another cold front will move through this Wednesday. Sustained winds are forecast to be 15-20 mph with gust up to 30 mph. Otherwise, Marks said this will be an ideal week.

“Warm sunny days and those cool nights,” Marks said. “You don’t want a lot of rainfall, but a little is OK, as well as not a lot of wind.

There will be plenty of sunshine with highs in the 60s and 70s. Lows will drop into the 40s and 50s.

“It seems like we’ve had average temperatures and average rainfall, maybe a little bit dry, but not too terrible,” Marks said. “We should be peaking in the next couple of weeks.”

In July the rainfall was at a 0.69 inch deficit for the month.

August ended with a 0.59 inch surplus above normal.

September was very dry with a 2.40 inch deficit below normal.

Bright colors are more likely after a dry summer when fall is cool at night and sunny during the day.

Marks said shorter days is what starts the color change processes.

“That sends a signal to the trees to start storing up food and as they begin to do that, they stop producing that green chlorophyll that we see in the leaves,” Marks said. “They start to cut ties with the leaf. As that happens the chlorophyll fades away which allows the other pigments to come through like our yellows and oranges and the reds. If there is a lot of sugar stored in the leaf you’ll see those reds.”

Marks said the hickories and the walnuts are yellow trees you are noticing right now.

“The sugar maples give us that beautiful variety, but a lot of orange and some red will come out with those as well as our dogwoods,” Marks said. “The rusty color that you see in the oak trees that’s that red color that you see come through.”

Every week the Ohio Department of Natural Resources releases a color update for all the state parks.

“You can stay up to date with what is peaking where in Ohio, and even in our region,” Marks said. “They also have a lot of information on the science behind the color change.”

In Centerville-Washington Parks District there are two nature parks with trails among the changing leaves.

“That’s Grant Nature Park and Bill Yeck Park and there’s multiple entrances you can check throughout the October fall color season,” Marks said.

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