A week of record-breaking 90-degree heat at the start of October, coupled with little or no rain, will delay the traditional vibrant fall foliage season in Ohio.
“We really really had a wet start. Now it’s been hot and dry, so a lot of trees have been losing their leaves before they even have a chance to color up,” said Stephanie West, a naturalist at Blendon Woods Metro Park in Westerville.
The vibrant fall colors — a panolpy of reds, oranges and golds — will soon be on display, but some of the dramatic hues could be diminished without widespread rain this month.
The vivid reds are made in the early fall with the combination of sunlight as the days shorten and the nights turn cooler, resulting in an uptick in sugar production that yields anthocyanins, West explained.
Yellow pigments (xanophylls) and orange pigments (carotenes) are hidden during the summer, until the production of green chlorophyll (food) diminishes in the fall.
Cloudy autumn weather diminishes the brilliant colors after the green leaves turn orange, red and purple.
The U.S. Drought Monitor has indicates that 81 percent of Ohio is abnormally dry or worse, and more than 12 percent is under a moderate drought.
Limited early color is starting to show on some of the maples, as well as the early-turning dogwood and buckeye trees, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Fall colors are not expected to peak until the third week of October in the northern counties, and not until the fifth in central Ohio and southern Ohio, with color lingering into November.
To locate the current areas of colorful foliage in Ohio, ODNR maps the progression of the fall colors weekly.