Warm sunny days and cool, crisp nights are flowing into the Ohio Valley region, and with this change in weather comes the promise of colorful fall foliage. Its one of the most beautiful times of the year in Ohio, when summers green wardrobe is exchanged for autumns brilliant cloak of red, orange, yellow and purple.
Trees experience this change in leaf color due to a chemical process that takes place as the seasons change from summer to winter.
In the spring and summer, leaves function like small factories, churning out the food that trees need to grow. This process is made possible by chlorophyll, a natural chemical found throughout each leaf. Chlorophyll gives the leaf its green color and absorbs energy from sunlight, changing carbon dioxide and water into simple sugars a process known as photosynthesis.
As fall approaches, shorter days and cooler nights trigger a halt in the leafs food production, causing chlorophyll to break down and the green color to disappear. This breakdown allows other colors within the leaf oranges, yellows and browns to show their stuff.
So what about the other autumn colors? Sugars trapped in the leaf introduce a pigment known as anthocyanin, which is responsible for the deep oranges, reds and purples that create the fall splendor of Ohios hardwood forests.
And, when it comes to fall color, the Buckeye State plays second fiddle to no one, including our New England cousins. Ohios forests have 125 different tree species (considerably more diversity than Vermont) giving almost every hue of the rainbow a chance to be part of this annual autumn extravaganza.
Fall foliage viewers will see the most vivid shades of red and scarlet on maple, dogwood and oak trees, while buckeyes, birch and beech trees will display varying shades of yellow.
Forestry experts at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) say Ohios autumn color display should be excellent across much of the state thanks, in part, to a relatively moist summer.
Fall color traditionally begins in northern Ohio, making a splash during the last week of September, then travels southward with peak color occurring in mid-October throughout most of the state. ODNR will begin issuing Fall Color updates on September 27 to help Ohioans and out-of-state visitors plan their autumn outings.
Those seeking to add some extra fun to their autumn leaf viewing might want to consider an outing to one of the many fall color events scheduled at Ohio state parks, forests and nature preserves.
How about planning your own leaf peeping adventure? Literally hundreds of miles of trails run throughout Ohios many outdoor facilities, offering autumn enthusiasts the chance to hike or bike beneath a canopy of fall color. Or take an autumn drive. Ohio roadways provide one of the best ways to view the states color-drenched countryside.
However and wherever you decide to take in natures fall phenomenon, one thing is for sure, you dont have to leave Ohio to see beautiful fall fireworks!
Fall color reports and planning information are available at www.dnr.state.oh.us.