Virginia Tech experts say dry conditions will hurt this year’s fall color outlook

BLACKSBURGH, Va. – Dry conditions in the region will spell a less colorful fall for Virginians, according to experts in Blacksburg at Virginia Tech.

“These trees are dropping their leaves with very little color development,” said tree physiology expert John Seiler. “There are lots of trees that are going into what I call drought-induced leaf abscission, versus normal fall leaf abscission which goes through first step, nice color development.  I’m usually pretty optimistic, and we’ll still have some good trees to look at, but it’s going to have a negative impact.”

In 2018, Virginia saw plenty of summer and early fall rain. That reportedly wasn’t the case in 2019, and experts are pointing to this reason to explain it.

“If we get some rain, which is not really forecast, there will still be some individual trees that will be really pretty.  But the general hillsides, people are going to notice it – it’s going to be off this year,” said Seiler. “It’s probably already too late for some of these trees.”

Still, Seiler encourages leaf watchers not to cancel their plans – but keep an eye out for better locations.  “Localized thunderstorms have made a real difference in some localities, so it’s best to do your homework.  Hunt for the prime spots and plan your trip accordingly.”

Professor Seiler specializes in environmental stress effects on woody plant physiology, including water and pollutant stresses.

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