Autumn leaves may be dull after hot summer

By Andrew Freiden - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - After a brutally hot summer, most of us are looking forward to autumn. But will this summer's extreme heat and drought ruin the fall colors?

You can count on a show every year -- even the experts get excited by the brilliant colors of fall.

"Autumn is certainly my favorite time of the year....the colors are vibrant, beautiful, it's a great time to be out in the woods, taking a walk,"  said John Campbell of the Virginia Department of Forestry.

But Campbell is a little worried that this year's color might not measure up!

"A lot of them are starting to shed leaves early with no change of color, they are just going right to a fall," he said.

The trees are protecting themselves after a brutal summer. By sacrificing leaves, trees can maintain their overall health.

That is pushing the peak of autumn color about a week early this year. Instead of the first half of November, you can expect this year's best show to happen at the end of October through early next month.

But Campbell says not to get discouraged.  Predicting fall color is an inexact science and there will still be plenty to see.

"It's a mixed bag," he said. "There's going to be beautiful color in some areas, and not so good in other areas."

The beautiful fall colors -- the reds, yellows and oranges -- are there in the leaves all spring and summer long. They're just overpowered by the green.  That green is the pigment chlorophyll.  A vital part of photosynthesis and as the days get shorter, the nights get longer and the temperatures start to drop the chlorophyll starts to lose, and die out.   And the red, yellow and orange start to make their appearance.

And with drought-busting rain in late September, the trees might just be healthy enough to bring us a vibrant show to signal the brutal summer of 2010 is finally over.

Copyright 2010 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.

VDOF Recommended Fall Foliage Driving Tours

So, you're interested in seeing some of the beauty that is Virginia during Fall Foliage season? But you don't want to fight the traffic that clogs some of the best-known places, such as Skyline Drive?

Well, you've come to the right place! The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) is proud to present its first ever VDOF-Recommended Fall Foliage Driving Tours. And who better than the folks who know Virginia's trees best to provide you with routes that will expose you to some of the Commonwealth's most colorful tree-lined vistas?

Each of these tours – designed by a local VDOF forester – is sure to exceed your expectations and fill your eyes with wide swatches of vibrant yellows, reds and oranges. And, because these recommended drives are "off the beaten path," you'll be able to enjoy a leisurely trip without the hassles of a lot of traffic on the road or large crowds at stops along the way.

Simply choose one of the tours below, print out the route and take it with you as you enjoy the "leaf-peeping" in Virginia!

  • Charlottesville area: Greene County.
  • Lexington area: Bath County tour directions