RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - In a typical year, the fall colors peak during the last third of October in Richmond. Here’s the map from the Va Department of Forestry:
In a typical year, the Blue Ridge gets an Oct. 15-25 peak and Richmond and points east get a peak from Oct. 20-31.
But this year has been far from normal. We had an abnormally warm September (3rd warmest on record) and that continued into early October (running 10+ degrees above average). That has a profound impact on the change from Green to Brown.
In the fall, because of changes in the length of daylight and changes in temperature, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.
While our daylight has gotten shorter, it took a LONG TIME for the temperatures to get cool so peak foliage is running much later than normal.
Here’s the Fall Foliage Report from October 6 from the Virginia Department of Forestry: Which explains that our never-ending rain of summer and early fall has an impact too.
The abundant rain of late summer and fall has kept Virginia’s forests mostly green into early October. You may spot some of the early changers like black gum, poison ivy, dogwood, Virginia creeper, and sumacs flashing shades of red along forest edges. The trees that tend to turn yellow early in the season usually drop their leaves quickly. These include yellow-poplar and black walnut.
When I first posted this story on October 5, I predicted that a combination of plenty of rain plus VERY warm Late summer and early Autumn temperatures meant “I don’t expect peak fall color in the Blue Ridge until the END of October and we might not hit peak in Richmond until the first half of November.”
I’m sticking with that prediction.
Here’s an update from the VDOF FROM Oct. 20:
"By this time, you may be wondering if the green forest will ever change! But if you look closely, you’ll notice that the green is beginning to fade, allowing the underlying yellow leaf pigments to show. This change happens in response to shortening days, regardless of the weather.
In parts of southwest Virginia above 3,000 feet in elevation, about 30 percent of the trees have changed color. You will find some isolated spots of red, orange and yellow, but the best reds are still to come, following the cooler days forecast for next week"
Bottom line: it’s going to be a while. When you do get pictures, be sure to share them with us via Send it to 12.