You can credit the fantastic fall foliage in the area to the combination of clear, sunny days and cool nights.
“Those are really the things that predict it best,” said Doug McLaren, extension forester for the UK cooperative extension service.
McLaren, as well as others with an avid interest in trees, say peak color season for local trees began last weekend and will continue at least through this Saturday and Sunday.
“We are right there,” McLaren said. “This past weekend and this coming weekend the leaves will probably be at the height of color.”
McLaren said the seasonal color change is the result of trees preparing for the cold months ahead.
“The green chlorophyll in the leaf is signaled to go into recession and rest a few months,” he explained. “The chlorophyll then ceases producing sugars and starts to break down. The colors we see are hidden there all summer long.”
Another contributing factor, McLaren explained is a layer at the point where the leaf will fall from the stem that prevents late-formed sugars from entering the tree. Low moisture rowing seasons tend to produce duller leaf colors, McLaren said. While science continues to seek explanations for years that have outstanding leaf color, McLaren said he doubts there will ever be a way to manipulate forests to consistently create perfect fall foliage.
“I suggest people simply enjoy and appreciate it,” he said.
McLaren said he has been especially impressed with the state’s sugar maple trees this year, citing the “unbelievable” orange tones of those trees.
McLaren said oak trees tend to have fall colors with a brown cast, while several trees including the buckeye, yellow poplar, sycamore, hickory and ash varieties tend to produce yellow fall displays. Red leaves also tend to come from trees in the maple family as well as sassafras, white and scarlet oak, dogwood and sourwood trees.
For people who want to enjoy a variety of color contrast, McLaren points out that certain trees tend to follow topographic lines including ridges, rivers and north or south facing slopes.
“Take a trip that will engage and encompass all of these locations,” he advised, adding state parks tend to provide some of the best views and offer additional activities suitable for a weekend visit.
Spectacular fall colors can be found throughout Ashland, and especially in Central Park, according to tree board members Joyce Welch and Charles Howes.
“They are everywhere,” Welch said, describing a few of the brightly colored trees she has noticed along Ashland Avenenue, in Midland Heights and other neighborhoods. Welch said the city is also blessed with an abundance of birds and other wildlife during this time of year.
Central Park, she said, is breathtaking.
“It’s just so beautiful. We are so fortunate to have that park,” she said, advising anyone with a desire to see fall colors visit the park, “because it is just so beautiful right now.”
Howes said this year’s fall colors aren’t as vivid as some years in the past, although still quite nice.
“It’s a good B plus,” Howes said while identifying a few of the park’s more colorful trees including the yellow tones of the maples and the bright reds to be found on the sour gum trees, otherwise known as black tupelo trees, near the park’s round house.
Anyone interested in trees that tend to have brilliant fall colors should plan to take advantage of the annual tree giveaway program in the park on the last Friday in April, Howes said, noting this year’s Arbor Day giveaway will include often coveted Pawpaw trees. Flowering dogwoods, he said, tend to be among the best for color with spring blossoms and fall leaf colors in addition to bright red berries.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (606) 326-2651.
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