When the red maples flash their bright colors, you know that fall is really here. The red colors in leaves are produced when the nights grow longer and temperatures grow cooler. Trees begin to shut off the vessels that carry fluids in and out of the leaves, and sugars become trapped in the leaves. The trapped sugars form red pigments called anthocyanins. Bright sunny days and cool clear nights produce the best autumn reds. Some species of trees produce more of these pigments than others.
Fall colors are revealing themselves across the state. In Southwest Virginia, colors continue to transition away from green. In the higher elevations near Abingdon, colors are at peak. In the New River Valley, approximately one-quarter to one-third of the trees have color. In the Allegheny Mountains, significant color change can be seen in Highland County. In the Shenandoah Valley, the fall color change is underway. Fall colors continue unfolding in the Piedmont and Coastal Plain. At this time, peak colors are expected in the mountains during late October and early November; the Piedmont and Coastal Plain are expected to peak during mid-to-late November.
Fall Fire Season begins October 15th. When burning leaves, the Virginia Department of Forestry recommends burning small piles, have water on hand and a cell phone nearby to dial 911 if it gets out of control.