Chattanooga fall colors fading fast

Chattanooga fall colors fading fast

November 4th, 2011 by Naomi Jagoda in News

Fall Creek Falls state park shows off its colors early Wednesday afternoon.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

POLL: Do you plan a leaf-viewing trip this fall?

Leaves display bright colors before falling off for the winter Wednesday afternoon near Booker T. Washington State Park.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

A lone tree overlooks the a valley full of autumn colors as seen from Millikan's Overlook at Fall Creek Falls state park early Wednesday afternoon.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

It's time to savor the reds, oranges and yellows of fall.

The leaves in the Chattanooga area are probably slightly past their peak, City Forester Gene Hyde said.

"They're going to start dropping very fast," he said. The best time to view leaves was last weekend, and the next best time to see them is this weekend, he added.

Hyde characterized this year's colors as above average.

Given the summer drought, "it's been a surprisingly good year," he said.

Kyle Waggener, lead naturalist at the Chattanooga Arboretum and Nature Center, said the hot, dry summer was beneficial to producing vibrant foliage -- especially red leaves.

For optimal color, "what you want is warm, sunny days and cool nights," Waggener said.

A leaf turns red when it forms a layer of cells between it and the twig of the tree when it is getting ready to fall. Sugars produced during photosynthesis then get trapped in leaves and break down into red pigment, Waggener said. When it's rainy, the leaves will photosynthesize less, so they won't be as red.

The peak time for the warm hues varies from year to year depending on temperature, but the leaves are generally at their most colorful in the last couple of weeks in October and the first week of November, Waggener said. The Smoky Mountains' leaves peak earlier, and leaves in Georgia will peak later.

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