It’s October, and that means it’s time for cider, sweaters, pumpkins and colorful leaves, but for the Pittsburgh area it might be a couple more weeks before the yellows, oranges and reds really emerge.
Rachael Christie, Environmental Education Specialist at the 58,000 acre Forbes State Forest in Fayette, Somerset, and Westmoreland Counties, predicts this year will be great for fall colors, “we’ve had the cooler nights, and we’ve had the nice sunny days as well. So [this is] very ideal fall weather patterns to have some really beautiful fall foliage.”
For ideal fall colors there is a perfect balance of moisture that is needed. If there is too much rain, mold growth is promoted and that hinders the vibrancy of the colors, and too little moisture leads to duller colors as well.
“It’s nice to have that balance where we’ve had as much rainfall as we’ve had. It hasn’t been too, too much that it has oversaturated the soil, and of course it hasn’t been dry enough that we really need to worry about, not having adequate moisture,” said Christie who thinks the colors will peak in her park this weekend.
During the spring and summer, trees produce chlorophyll which appears green. Then when the weather starts to cool, the days get shorter, and the nights get longer, the chlorophyll production begins to slow and eventually stop.
“The carotenoids, which are the orangeish and yellows, those are always within the leaves even throughout the growing season, but they’re masked by the chlorophyll production. So once that chlorophyll production starts to slow down and eventually stop, that unmasks the carotenoids that are within the leaves, and allows the leaves to show those really vibrant yellows and oranges,” says Christie.
Christie says that Pittsburghers can look out for vibrant fall colors around the third week of October, but in higher elevations such as Forbes State Forest, Christie says the trees are already putting on a show. She expects the colors to stay at peak for a week- week and a half if the weather cooperates and doesn’t blow all of the leaves off with heavy wind. Rain is expected again later this week.
People eager to see some fall foliage can join Christie in Forbes State Forest this Sunday for a 4 ½ mile hike through the forest to experience and learn more about the colors of fall. For those that make the hour and a half trip the drive is quite beautiful according to Christie if you take Route 30 to Laurel Mountain, and then take Laurel Summit Road through Forbes State Forest.