A warm start to autumn means we may have to wait a bit longer to enjoy fall’s foliage display.
An official with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry said this foliage season will follow in the footsteps of the last few years because of a warmer late summer.
“We’re not going to see a (foliage) progression as early,” said Ryan Reed, a natural resource specialist at the forestry bureau, which tracks the change in leaf colors with weekly foliage reports. The first report will be released Thursday.
Reed, who works on the weekly reports, said all signs point to a “pretty vibrant year.”
Here’s what you need to know about this foliage season:
Peak foliage season
The foliage season varies depending on location, according to Reed.
“The north is much different in terms of the southern part of the state,” he said. “Not all trees will change at the same time.”
Tourism site smokymountains.com offers a nationwide fall foliage forecast each year, and according to its interactive map for 2019, Lancaster County should see minimal color change beginning Saturday.
Peak season in the county begins Oct. 19, according to the map.
Last year’s peak season for Lancaster County didn’t begin until the first week of November, according to that week’s forestry bureau foliage report. Meanwhile, Potter, Tioga, Bradford, Wayne, Sullivan and Wyoming counties in northeastern Pennsylvania hit peak season in early October.
Temperature vs. length of night
According to the forestry bureau, weather and length of night are two factors that influence autumn color.
Reed said despite this year’s overall dryer season, there may be some residual effects from last year’s historic rainfall.
For example, he said, the common fungi Anthracnose “can strip leaves from trees before they even get a chance to show fall color.” The fungi is spread by rain, among other things.
Reed said the changeover is fast approaching.
“We’re definitely cooling off,” he said.
However, it appears we are still in for at least one more week of warmer weather.
Today’s temperature may hit as high as 90 degrees, according to Millersville University meteorologist Eric Horst.
AccuWeather’s weeklong outlook is calling for temperatures mostly in the 80s for through Sept. 30. According to the Millersville University Weather Information Center, normal temperatures for this time period is range from the low to mid-70s.
As the fall nights get longer and cooler, biochemical processes in leaves begin to bring out the colors associated with the foliage season.
Best spots to see all the colors
Due to Lancaster County’s plentiful farmland, there isn’t too much forest.
The Susquehannock State Park in southwestern Lancaster County is listed as the only “prime spot” for fall foliage, according to a state foliage map.
But 70% of the state is forested, according to the bureau.
“If you want to see beautiful foliage, you don’t have to go far,” Reed said.
Welsh Mountain overlooks the 906-acre Welsh Mountain Nature Preserve in East Earl Township, and the Chestnut Grove Natural Area in Manor Township is a 170-acre site that includes 60 acres of forest.
Other spots include state game lands north of Ephrata on Route 322 toward Hershey.
To make a day out of it, game lands around State College have expansive views of foliage, as do the Poconos. Michaux State Forest in Franklin County is less than two hours away.