Falling For Foliage

Sam Frank, President, Hall Highlights and Hall Record

Nothing says “fall” in New England quite like trees’ leaves converting into hues of red and gold. It’s easy to take this wondrous display of natural beauty for granted if you are a resident. Yet, “leaf peepers” come from all around the country – and even the world – to view the results of this breathtaking metamorphosis.


In my humble opinion, the foliage is the best part of living in New England, specifically my home state of Connecticut. The summers are hot and the winters are cold, but the fall makes up for it all. One can experience a number of great joys just by stepping outside: the crisp morning air that prickles at your nose and distinguishing the shades of yellow and orange that encroach on the previous shades of green on the leaves.


Photosynthesis dictates autumn’s yearly transformation. For all the underclassmen who haven’t taken biology yet, during photosynthesis, a chemical called chlorophyll helps to convert sunlight into energy. As the daylight hours grow shorter and winter approaches, trees can’t produce as much energy from photosynthesis, resulting in useful leaves becoming a burden. 


A cork layer begins to grow between the leaf and its branch, which will eventually sever the connection entirely. The leaves also produce less chlorophyll, and other chemicals begin to dominate. We start to see anthocyanin, xanthophyll, and carotene.  These produce the eminent red, yellow, and orange colors. 


Although biologists have solved the mystery behind why leaves change, hardy souls attempting to predict the patterns of fall foliage often find themselves one step behind Mother Nature. Many create maps displaying regions that will experience the most vibrant colors at which time. 


However, “peak” foliage remains elusive, usually lasting only a few days to a week. Foliage forecasters base their predictions on many factors, including precipitation. A dry summer typically indicates an early start to the season. Some factors including rainfall in September, premature frost, or strong winds could all knock serious dents in these predictions. 


Connecticut leaves begin to change in the northwest and northeast corners of the state during late September. A week or two later, the mid-east, mid-west, and Connecticut River Valley follows suit, peaking in mid-October. If you missed out this year, don’t worry! The shoreline foliage season will stay vibrant into the first week of November. So, with that being said, get out there and behold the natural beauty of fall!