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Monday, September 12, 2016

Everything Autumn - Foliage Prediction Map

It's almost here. Leaf peeping season is almost here.
The days are still warm, but the nights are starting to cool off. The bugs are virtually out of sight, the humidity is starting to drop, and a cool breeze is reminding us that fall is around the corner. Mums are for sale at every store and pumpkin spice late is starting to take over the world again. I am even sad to say Christmas is already making its way on the shelves of some stores (gasp!).

The equinox is the date twice a year where the center of the sun crosses the plane of the earth's equator. When this happens, day and night are the same lengths all over the globe. This year, those dates fall of September 22nd, and March 20th. The autumnal equinox, September 22nd this year ,marks the first day of autumn. In contrast, solstices are the point in the calendar year when the sun reaches the center of the sun reaches the highest or lowest point. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year (June) while the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year (December).

Now that our science lesson is out of the way, lets talk about fall. In 11 days, fall will be officially upon us and the leaves will slowly start to change. This is the time of year where New Englanders head to the orchards to pick apples, bring home pumpkins, and start wearing sweaters and tall riding boots. If you ask me, it is the absolute best time to be a New Englander. Hot soups, ciders and hay rides, you can visit the home of the Salem Witch trials in Massachusetts, or spend the afternoon leaf peeping around Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.   But I have to admit, Utah had some amazing foliage, with the most beautiful birch trees showing off their hues of September.  New England, you don't get all the credit.  

No matter where you are in this beautiful country, you can see when fall will hit your area.  And in order to see certain areas in their prime leaf peeping season, you need to do a little bit of research. And so I present to you, the best tool for all the fall loving citizens out there.  

This interactive map will show you when prime leaf peeping season is hitting your area.  It changes daily and you can plan the perfect time for that fall leaf peeping trip in your area. Here is the link to the interactive map:  Foliage Prediction Map

But alas, I cannot end this post without one more lesson (I have two science degrees after all).   
So, why do the leaves change?

Photosynthesis - remember that process you learned about in elementary school? Plants use the sun and CO2 to make energy. Chlorophyll is one of the key components in this process, and an abundance of these cells make the leaves appear green. As the summer turns to fall, the trees start to produce less and less chlorophyll, showing the true colors of the leaves.  The red anthocyanins and orange/yellow carotenoids become dominant once the chlorophyll decreases.  Yep, it's a strange thought but these oranges reds and yellows are actually the leaves true color without the green chlorophyll stealing the show. And so, we get the beautiful fall colors before the leaves fall off the trees. 

The more I researched fall foliage here in New England, the more I just had to smile.  New England takes fall very (very) seriously.  Not only is there a foliage prediction map for the entire US, but New England takes it a step further. 

States have their own hotline (like the Maine Foliage Index) where you can call or website you can go to to check the leaves in that area. And I am happy to report that my beloved Fodor's Travel New England book has an entire section dedicated to fall foliage and drives in each state.

Top Trees for Color - Excerpt from Fodor's Travel New England book 

Leaves to look for

A. American Beech: Tree with a smooth steel-gray trunk with gold, copper and bronze-tinted elliptical leaves.
B. Northern Red Oak: elongated flame shaped leaves crimson and orange colors 
C. Quaking Aspen: Small yellow/orange ovate leaves making a quaking sound with the breeze. 
D. Sugar Maple: The leaf on the Canadian Flag with five multi pointed lobes producing a deep red color. Famous for its sap in the syrup industry. 
E. White Ash: Tall tree between 65 to 100 feet with five to nine serrated tapering leaflets ranging from burgundy and purple to amber. 
F. White Birch: Paper light bright bark famous for its wood with yellow pointed leaves.

For specific foliage drives in each state, grab a copy of Fodor's Travel New England. I am so excited for the leaves to start turning, and can't wait to tackle some of the drives and share them with you all. Happy Autumnal Equinox (next week!). Keep checking back on the Foliage Prediction Map to look for prime foliage in your area. You are officially prepared for fall.


  1. You said it right, fall really is the best time to be a New Englander and the only time I get truly and totally homesick for New England! -Heather (

    1. I was impressed by Utah's fall! I mean, its no New England but the leaves up at Desolation Lake were so pretty last fall! I missed New England most in the summer and fall, rest of the time I was quite happy to be away from New Englands awful winters and long awaited spring :)


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