Fall color hunters need not be discouraged by doom and gloom foliage predictions – Mother Nature has yet to play all her cards. Foliage experts agree that, although the South has experienced drought conditions this summer, the critical period for vibrant color is still to come in Western North Carolina.
“What happens in September will tell the color story for October and beyond,” said Chimney Rock Park Naturalist Ron Lance, who has more than 25 years experience studying native plant life. “Thunderstorms have helped on local levels within the mountains. More rain in the coming weeks followed by cool weather would bode well for a burst of fall color.”
“Weather highs and lows do not affect mountainous terrain like a uniform blanket,” Lance continued. “The varying topography, soils, geology and drainage patterns of the Blue Ridge Mountains support complex microclimates. Every year there are pockets of color that are more brilliant than general areas, so touring in October and November will reward visitors cruising for color, despite drought conditions.”
“The Blue Ridge Parkway produces strong leaf color year after year. Home to diverse microclimates, like sheltered coves where water drains down from the ridges, the Parkway is a good bet for leaf peepers,” said Dr. Gary Walker, a biology professor at Appalachian State University. “High elevations – like Grandfather Mountain and Balsam Mountain – will be rewarding as well, due to the likelihood of early frosts that lock in color intensifying leaf sugars.”