Are We In for a Dull Fall?

Biologists from the Proctor Maple Research Center at the University of Vermont plan to study how climate change might affect this year’s “foliage viewing season,” whether it is longer, shorter, or more muted. You can follow the Northeast’s foliage progress on your own here, and even become a “foliage ambassador” for your state. [%comments]


I hope it is a great year for fall foliage, my wife spent a small fourtune to travel east to see the slow colorful decay of tree leaves.

Eric M. Jones

I was raised with a science background so it surprised me that it took until I was 40 to discover that what I was taught as the reason trees lose their leaves in the Fall was all wrong. I was taught that the first cold snap told the tree it was time to get ready for Winter, that the shorter hours of sunlight produced the change, and that the trees lost their leaves to prevent evaporation in the drier Winter. All wrong....

I went to Oaxaca, Mexico (A place name that is also used as a perjorative meaning dim-witted, as in "What? Are you from Oaxaca?!"). I saw that the tropical jungle was denuded. It was October and 85 degrees. I wondered what happened to the leaves. It certainly didn't get cold, and it was close enough to the Equator not to have much shorter days. So I asked the guide, who at first wasn't sure if I was serious. He didn't ask me if I was from Oaxaca....because HE was from Oaxaca. "It's Fall señor what did you think?"

So it turns out that deciduous trees have a growing season just like flowers and crops. They sprout, bloom, make leaves to store food, make seeds, scatter the seeds, lose their leaves and go dormant until next season. You can fool them to speed up or slow down, but not by much. If you have a maple tree indoors, it will do about the same thing as a maple tree outdoors.

The reason the colors are brilliant or not depends on many factors, but the reason the leaves fall off the trees is always the same.


Vicki T

You are right, deciduous trees lose their leaves in fall .regardless of climate...
What makes the fall spectacular in parts of the country is the SUDDEN drop in temperature. The more sudden and extreme drops produce the deep reds and oranges.

Also, Mr. Jones... where are you from? I would like to use that as my euphemism for "duh, are you from______?"
I for one find the Oaxaquenos to be intelligent, beautiful human beings!!

Charlotte K

This year the trees around Boston (where I live) are turning earlier than usual, with the reds primarily starting the show, also unusual (around me it is yellows, oranges, reds as a rule).. I never used to track this, but since I got a digital camera a few years ago that dates the pix I can tell the variations in timing & color. So far the colors are anything but dull (they were dull -- in my opinion--last year). The colors are the result of various chemicals in the leaf as I understand it. Rain, temp, (lack of sunspots) do they have an effect on those chemicals and when the green chemical chlorophyll recedes?

Fritz Mills

Spending federal money studying things like this is what drives the Golden Fleece awards. That is to say, regardless of the merits of the study itself, when it's presented this way, it just attracts ridicule.

Eric M. Jones

#3— Vicki T
"Also, Mr. Jones… where are you from? I would like to use that as my euphemism for “duh, are you from______?”
I for one find the Oaxaquenos to be intelligent, beautiful human beings!!"

I never had a problem with Oaxaquenos. The use of the phrase actually point out anti-Zapotec racism among the Spanish.

You are wecome to say "Are you from Massachusetts?" They are all dim-witted here. Just look at the Big Dig!

Vicki T

OK point taken... but why perpetuate the racism of any culture by repeating it in that context... Thank you for clarifying your reasons though! Truce?
I am going to Oaxaca next month (first time in the fall for me), and I will enjoy the tropical autumn noting the deciduous trees in particular!
:) Peace out


The Boston Globe reports that because of heavy rains in the spring and early summer combined with good sunshine from mid-summer to fall that this should be an exceptionally good year for foliage.