Appreciate the beauty of Appalachia this fall – hints of autumn hues appearing

Published 1:05 pm Thursday, September 28, 2023

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With a symphony of colors emerging in the highest elevations of the Appalachian Highlands, East Tennessee State University’s Travis Watson hopes regional leaf peepers appreciate the raw beauty of the area.
“The botanical diversity of the Southern Appalachian forests, consisting of over 100 species of deciduous hardwoods, provides a broad color palette and can provide a slightly longer display than the maple-dominated forests of the Northeast,” said Watson, the university’s campus arborist.
For Watson, a few trees are especially striking:
– Maples are “the star of the show, and sugar maple is my favorite because I love the orange-to-yellow gradient that it produces dependably.”
– Ginkgo biloba is a close second for Watson. “I have long had a fondness for them as a tree, but their fall display can be quite amazing,” he said. “All of the leaves tend to turn from green to brilliant golden yellow within 24 to 48 hours and then will drop almost simultaneously one cold night to form a golden carpet over the lawn.”
– The sweetgum also made his list. “It can be a pesky tree in the landscape due to its spiky fruits, but in fall it often produces a wide spectrum of color long into the season,” he said. “It’s not uncommon to see bright reds, oranges, and even deep purple colors all on the same tree at the same time.”
Color is already occurring across the mountains of East Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. Watson suggests planning a drive through the highest elevations the second or third week of October.
Color is also appearing across the hills and valleys of the Appalachian Highlands. Look for peak color a bit later in October.
ETSU publishes a weekly fall color prediction every Thursday until the season ends. Find it on ETSU’s social media channels, as well as ETSU News.

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