MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The fall leaf colors haven’t appeared in the hills and hollows of West Virginia so far, but a professor at West Virginia University reminds us autumn isn’t done yet.
“They may be coming with the weather we’re having over the next couple of days,” said Zach Fowler, Assistant Professor of Biology and Director of the Core Arboretum at WVU. “You might start to see some reds develop and that’s part of the story.”
Red leaves are a result of a change in which trees recoup the last nutrients stored in the leaf in preparation for winter. The Yellow color is always in the leaves, but is enhanced by the transformation process. Other pigment colors are developed by the intensity of the change.
Typically the process which creates the most vibrant and vivid fall color in West Virginia is a combination of warm days and cool nights during late September or early October. This year, there has been warm and rainy weather all the way through the fall and only this week in which we’ve seen that pattern starting to break up.
“Warm days aren’t so much the problem as are warm nights,” Fowler explained on Thursday’s MetroNews Talkline. “It’s mostly the reds it tends to affect.”
Although most of the West Virginia forests are still in their typical green color scheme, look for that to begin a rapid transformation so long as a heavy freeze doesn’t cut it all short. Fowler didn’t think that would be an issue.
“The end date is a really hard freeze that kills all the leaves and until that happens there’s always time for some color change,” he explained. “Right now we’re in a succession of very bright, sunny days and clear, cool nights and we may see some reds develop as the next couple of weeks go on.”