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Leaf Forecast 2021: WNC Fall Colors Will Peak In October

WCU Professor Beverly Collins says the peak fall colors in Cullowhee will be in mid-October.
Courtesy of Western Carolina University
WCU Professor Beverly Collins says the peak fall colors in Cullowhee will be in mid-October.

Reporter Lilly Knoepp talks with Western Carolina University Professor Beverly Collins about when this year's fall colors will be at their peak in the Great Smoky Mountains and Western North Carolina.

Despite recent severe weather, this year’s fall leaf forecast for Western North Carolina is looking bright. Here’s when colors will be at their peak:

The fall colors of red, orange and yellow will be best at high elevation in mid-October says Professor Beverly Collins, who teaches biology at Western Carolina University.

“I think our color change at Cullowhee, which will be at about 2,000 ft will be at about end of October,”  said Collins.  

Warm temperatures and excessive rain from the recent tropical storms have not helped the leaves which are brightest in the crisp fall air.

“Where its been a little bit rainer – actually a lot rainer - and warm, the colors are likely to be pretty but not spectacularly bright,” said Collins.

However, the current climate will extend leaf season into late November.

“Our colors have been changing a bit later and I expect that trend to continue,” said Collins.  

The leaves change at different times based on tree type and elevation. At the highest elevation are usually evergreens and below those are hardwoods like maple and birch trees.

“Trees that turn yellow and red and because they are higher elevation they turn earlier,” said Collins.  

Collins says that this extended season of fall colors could be here to stay thanks for climate change.

Copyright 2021 BPR News. To see more, visit BPR News.

Lilly Knoepp serves as BPR’s first full-time reporter covering Western North Carolina.
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