Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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October 27, 2009

Slide Show: Peak colors in region

Ashland —

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.

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