The Phenology of Fall Leaves

The west side of Mount Mansfield with autumn snow. ©

We’ve all learned the basics of how and why leaves change color in the fall. But on this edition of Outdoor Radio, we take a deeper look at the chemistry of fall foliage and take leaf peeping to a whole new level. We meet Joshua Halman, a Forest Health Specialist with the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation at Underhill State Park, where a fresh autumn snow has fallen overnight. The department has monitored these trees for 25 years, recording color change and leaf drop here and at other places around the state.

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Halman reports that this work has documented the impacts of climate change. “Seen over this time, the peak color and the main time for leaf drop has actually become later,” Halman explains. “What we’re seeing since we started recording our fall phenology data is that, on average, foliage is peaking about eight days later over that 25-year period.”

Listen to the whole story on Outdoor Radio. The Vermont Center for Ecostudies and Vermont Public Radio unite the sounds and science of nature in our monthly show. 

You can find more information at the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation’s Forest Health Monitoring page, and learn more about fall leaves on the VCE blog – Turn Red or You’re Dead and Abscission and Marcescence in the Woods.

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