Will we have good fall color in 2006?

Editor’s note: This article is from the archives of the MSU Crop Advisory Team Alerts. Check the label of any pesticide referenced to ensure your use is included.  

As an Extension specialist, this is one of the calls I dread. Newspaper reporters, school kids – everyone wants a prediction on fall color. Although it doesn’t stop us from trying, a reliable prediction on fall color in Michigan is virtually impossible. Environmental conditions going into the fall certainly influence fall color (With relatively mild conditions of late for much of the state we would expect pretty good fall color this year.). But conditions during fall also influence fall color, and likely to a greater degree.

While the intensity of fall color certainly varies from year-to-year, I contend that the duration of fall color and our perception of fall color vary more. Fall color is greatest when we have bright, clear days and cool nights. However, if conditions are too dry leading into the color season, leaves may begin to turn early and drop quickly. We may still have fairly intense color, but if the show doesn’t last long, we’re less likely to notice. This could be the case on the west side of the state, where the weather has been dry and some trees are already beginning to turn. Also, I believe weather during the fall influences how we perceive tree color. If you drive up north on a bright, clear day with a brilliant blue sky, we’ll perceive the color as more striking than if we saw the same trees on a drizzly, grey overcast day.

If you want to learn more about the development of fall color in trees and keep track of this year’s fall color, check out the USDA Forest Service Fall Color website at:


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