Any day now, folks, and you’ll be seeing color

Colorful autumn leaves collected on Bessie Bell Mountain in Woodville this past week. By John McCaslin

“Waiting patiently,” relays rangers at Shenandoah National Park, referring to the much-anticipated arrival of fall foliage predicted to be spectacular this season.

So why is autumn here and the leaves are still mostly green?

The short answer is because of increasingly warm October days in Rappahannock County — it’s a proven fact that average temperatures are increasing in Virginia, which impacts the arrival date and length of the fall color season. But cooler weather seems to have settled in of late and the greens will now quickly wash into faded yellows, and those prized reds will soon follow.

And just as the days grow cooler they become shorter, which scientifically triggers a slowdown in chlorophyll production and thus a change in leaf color.

Another reason we know that the vivid colors aren’t far off is via a report from the Virginia Department of Forestry, which says upwards of 40 percent of the trees in southwest Virginia have now changed color. So expect trees to pop in these Blue Ridge Mountains any day now.

As for local trees and their autumn shades: Ash will turn yellow and maroon. Beech yellow to orange. Dogwood scarlet to purple. Hickory a golden bronze. Oak will be red, brown or russet. Poplar a golden yellow. And last but not least, red maple a brilliant scarlet.

Actually, the higher elevations of Shenandoah Park in recent days have seen “a few flashes of color out there; the maple at Meadow Spring Parking seems to be the star of the show.”

In other words, there hasn’t been too much color along Skyline Drive when everybody’s been transfixed by a single tree in a parking lot.

But the park is now reporting plummeting temperatures at night that “are forecast to stay cool, so we are hoping this will inspire Mother Nature to debut her 2018 awesomeness.”

In fact, Rappahannock County could be waking up to frost on the pumpkins tomorrow (Friday) morning.

About John McCaslin 466 Articles
John McCaslin is the editor of the Rappahannock News. Email him at