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Posted at 10:45 AM ET, 10/28/2009

Fall foliage update: peak conditions arrive

By Ann Posegate

Wx and the city

* Rain relents: Full Forecast | Autumn rain photos | Photo contest *

The latest fall regional fall foliage update, courtesy the Foliage Network (this is a week old and we will insert new one as soon as it is available. Peak conditions have shifted east.)

How did Mother Nature concoct such a brilliant display of fall foliage this year? By mixing moderate summer rains and warm temperatures, which helped deciduous leaves to grow large; then, adding several crisp, clear fall days combined with longer, cool fall nights to halt chlorophyll (green pigment) production; and finally, leaving the leaves on the trees instead of sweeping them off into tropical storms.

Keep reading for more on this season's fall foliage...

Oak leaf in puddle_Great Falls_AP.jpg
An oak tree leaf immersed in a puddle near Great Falls. By Ann Posegate

We are lucky enough to live in eastern North America, one of the few areas of the world graced with large swaths of colorful deciduous foliage each fall (parts of eastern Asia have an ideal climate for foliage as well ... check out these pictures from Japan).

Deciduous trees in our area have leaves that grow large, thanks to long, warm summers with moderate amounts of rainfall. Our latitude helps as well; days get shorter while nights get longer and cooler in the fall. (Read more about why leaves change color and view a slideshow about the new science of fall colors.)

Drought, tropical storms and other severe climate and weather events can throw off the delicate balance of conditions needed for a full display of color; luckily, our local deciduous trees didn't have to deal with much severity this year.

So far this October, our area is a bit ahead of the average timing for peak color as can be seen in a map of current conditions compared to an average peak foliage map.

The latest Virginia foliage update from (today) is the following:

  • Fall colors are in full view across most of the state.
  • New River Valley: more than 75% of the trees have changed and have peak color
  • Allegheny Mountains: just past peak colors
  • Shenandoah Valley: between 65-75% of the trees have color
  • Piedmont: approximately 50% color, expected to peak in early November
  • Coastal Plain: expected to peak in mid-November.

The Virginia Department of Forestry also reminds us that fall fire season is in effect from October 15 to November 30, so remember to be careful with outdoor fire when visiting natural areas (fire safety tips).

You can also call the Virginia Fall Foliage Hotline at 1.800.424.LOVE to hear this weekly report (what promotion materials for Virginia don't have to do with love?).

The latest update for Maryland (October 24) was the following:

  • By and large, there were still many green leaves across the state
  • Close to peak in Frederick County and most of western-central area
  • Gunpowder State Park in Harford and Baltimore Counties had nice viewing conditions
  • Cecil County: Elk Neck State Park had about 50 percent of expected color, while Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area was approaching full color
  • Tidewater areas of southern Maryland and the lower Eastern Shore were anywhere from five to 40 percent turned (still a couple of weeks from peak color)
  • Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary's County was starting to turn (including bald cypress trees, which are conifers with needles that have started to turn yellow and drop)
  • Cedarville State Forest in Charles and Prince George's Counties, Pokomoke River State Park in Worcester County and Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County were delightful.

You can hear this weekly report by calling 1-800-LEAVES1.

While a chance of rain and Halloween festivities might keep leaf-peepers at bay on Saturday, Sunday will likely be a great day to get outside and view the colors in the central and eastern parts of our region.

Check out these resources and travel tips for D.C. area fall foliage from

By Ann Posegate  | October 28, 2009; 10:45 AM ET
Categories:  Local Climate, Nature, Posegate, Wx and the City  
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Unfortunately, we don't get a real "peak" here...the much-unneeded rain & wind is taking down the leaves as soon as they change many cases while they're still green on the trees! As usual we're getting our mix of green leaves, some color and bare trees. That's why I'm saying "slightly better" rather than "much better".

We ARE doing better than the Shenandoah Valley this year. Early snow with that cold coastal nor'easter of two weeks ago either took down a lot of leaves or froze them green on the trees. This tends to turn the leaves an ugly dull gray-green then brown, and all the color gets destroyed. In northern and central Wisconsin, dry weather caused the leaves to turn dull yellow or brown and drop off early this fall.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | October 28, 2009 12:41 PM | Report abuse

The recent rains have indeed brought down many leaves in D.C., though we don't get as much peak color in the city compared to surrounding areas (I assume because of the Urban Heat Island effect and warmer nighttime temperatures). There's still a good bit of color in Rock Creek Park that's starting to show.

Posted by: Ann-CapitalWeatherGang | October 28, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I am saying much better. Color faster and on target. No droughts. As falls are wet and cool, they create phenominol foliage. I love it. I just hang out on the playground on the swings for 30 min/day just to enjoy the foliage. I feel like a kid again.

Posted by: Voldermort | October 29, 2009 6:58 PM | Report abuse

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