Fall Colors are "Bright and Brilliant" at Higher Elevations

There are some breathtaking displays of color appearing in the Asheville area now, and it is especially bold and colorful in the higher elevations.

Concerns about the impact of a dry summer have proven to be unfounded, as leaf peepers in the area are reporting intense colors where the foliage is turning.

“The proof is in the pudding, and I’ve seen some vibrant colors,” said Bruce O’Connell, manager of the Pisgah Inn located along the Blue Ridge Parkway on Mount Pisgah. On the leaves I’ve seen turning, the colors are bright and brilliant. It looks like it’s going to be a winner.”

Fall Color Report (2,500 Elevation and Below)

The fall color continues to emerge at the lower elevations, with pretty dashes of color in and around the downtown Asheville area. There is still a lot of green showing, but many trees are tinged in gold or burgundy.

The middle and lower elevations are still 2 or 3 weeks away from a color peak, if present weather continues, according to Chimney Rock Park Naturalist Ron Lance. “Predictions of cooler weather will mean some acceleration of the color, however,” he said. “We are in much better shape for color than the drier regions around us.”

At Biltmore, fall is still slowly building with small trees, shrubs and now vines providing the best color. Dogwoods and sourwoods continue to color up nicely.

This week, Virginia creeper vine and poison ivy began to show up in the woods. Poison ivy is not usually loved but in the fall, but it provides spectacular oranges and reds as it grows up trees on the forest edge and along the sides of streams. While people don't think much of the plant, birds rely on its fruit throughout the winter. Virginia creeper vine is great as ground cover or for growing on a trellis. It turns a bright burgundy in the fall.

Fall Color Report (Above 2,500 Feet)

The fall colors have quickly burst to live at the higher elevations, with intense color displays expected this weekend at elevations of 5,000 and above and the following weekend at elevations between 3,000 and 4,000.

Barbara Merrell, volunteer coordinator at Cradle of Forestry, said the color is really beginning to show in that area at around 3,300 feet. "We are beginning to see color, and I understand Graveyard Fields is very beautiful," she said.

The sourwood, beech and dogwood trees in particular are changing colors now.
Fall color shot on Oct. 5 at the Graveyard Fields overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway just south of Asheville.

The trees in the Grandfather Mountain area are becoming more colorful each day as illustrated by this photograph taken Wednesday of an old fashioned mule train traveling through MacRae Meadows. The color should be at its best in the Grandfather Mountain area over the next two weekends.

Look for color this week along the Blue Ridge Parkway between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain (or on US 221 between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain), especially near the Linn Cove Viaduct. Another colorful area is NC 105 at Linville Gap near at the intersection with NC 184.

Higher elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway are going to be the best sites to tour through Oct. 20, according to Lance. “There has been some rain lately, the nights have been cool, and the days sunny,” he said. “So, the reds and oranges are appearing in the maples this week, along with bronzing ash trees. With no autumn storms to strip the leaves off this year, the high elevations are shaping up to a very good year for sightseeing leaf color.”

Photo: A mule train passes through McRae Meadows Wednesday, Oct. 10 at Grandfather Mountain, by Helen Hopper of Grandfather Mountain.

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