Thousands of people flock to the area this time every year to view the bright, vibrant fall colors of the trees and their leaves.
This year’s fall color forecast looks promising, according to a Virginia Tech expert John Seiler.
“I don’t see any reason to not be optimistic,” Seiler said. “It looks like a really good fall, as all the soils have been recharged with good rainfall. Everything is well saturated, and even if we didn’t get another drop of rain during October, the trees are in a really healthy position.”
Seiler specializes in environmental stress effects on woody plant physiology, including water and pollutant stresses. He is quoted regularly in broadcast and print publications due to his expertise in tree physiology.
Seiler was named an Alumni Distinguished Professor in recognition of his extraordinary academic citizenship and distinguished service within the Virginia Tech community and teaches in the College of Natural Resources and Environment.
“If it stays wet and gloomy, that could potentially dampen the red coloration because the reds need some nice clear days of sunshine to develop. But I think it’s going to be good. People should be looking at their calendars and pick a good Saturday or Sunday, either the third or fourth week in October, and plan your trip accordingly,” he said.
The professor gave the peak for this year as this weekend and Nov. 3-4, and we seem (in the mountains of NRV) to be right on pace for that.
“I do not think we are seeing much of a delay. I base this on the fact that I go to the same trees every year at the same time in my tree identification class,” he said.
For picking the peak, he always starts with the last weekend in October and then adjusts it plus or minus a week depending on other factors such as rainfall, cold and light intensity (clear days). He has not moved his time period for 30 years. Seiler said that day length is the most important signal and that doesn’t vary from year to year.
A dry fall can move the peak up some, according to Seiler, wet and warm can delay it some plus or minus seven days or so).
“The rain did reduce the number of clear days we had which impacts the amount of red pigmentation. The red color develops only in clear sunshine. Less sun, less red. We are getting a lot of clear days lately, but it was too late for some trees,” he said.
An updated leaf forecast can also be found at www.blueridgeparkway.org.