As WCU’s leaf color prognosticator, Beverly Collins predicts a good display across the mountains this year.

It’s September in the hills when Western Carolina University’s fall foliage forecaster Beverly Collins attempts to quantify the quality of the annual color show in Western North Carolina through a scientific-based prediction. And Collins is anticipating a good display across the mountains this year.

Each fall, the region’s colors emerge as chlorophyll in leaves breaks down, revealing pigments that were hidden by the green.

“I think it will be a colorful fall this year,” said Collins, a professor in WCU’s Department of Biology. “If we have a typical fall with bright, sunny days and cool nights in mid- to late-September and a cold snap in early October, chlorophyll will fade and the other pigments will be exposed, giving us the bright colors. The warm, wet spring and most of the summer has been ideal for photosynthesis. Under those conditions, plants make abundant chlorophyll and associated leaf pigments, such as yellows, oranges and reds, to produce sugars.”

The peak color around WNC could arrive around the second and third week in October, depending on elevation, she said.

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Originally published Sept. 12, 2017. Written by Geoff Cantrell.

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