Are you still looking for something to do this weekend? The cool, crisp feel in the air might have you wanting to go leaf peeping. While some color is beginning to pop out, we are still a ways away from the peak of the fall foliage this year. Kentucky's most vivid colors look to occur in early November.
Fall colors are popping up at Indian Fort Lookout in the Pinnacles of Berea. Photo from Freeman Kelly Dronography.
The color of the leaves begins to change due to a decrease in chlorophyll production. The decrease comes with change to the two main variables - water and sunlight. As the days get shorter and temperatures cool, a thin layer of cells near the leaf and the stem begin to swell and form a cork-like substance. This cuts off the water supply, which is one of the key ingredients for photosynthesis. A lack of water and sunlight halts photosynthesis all together, which stops the production of chlorophyll thus changing the color of the leaves.
The weather also plays a key role in when the color changing will begin. There isn't a magic recipe for a bright and prolonged foliage. The best colors typically occur following a warm and rainy spring, a summer that is not too hot, and a fall featuring sunny days and crisp nights. There are a number of other factors that will lead to duller colors and a faster "drop rate." Warm and wet conditions during the fall will decrease the brightness. An early severe frost will likely turn the leaves brown and they will drop. A severe drought can delay the peak foliage by two to three weeks. Central and eastern Kentucky's peak foliage typically occurs in mid- to late-October. It will take some time to turn the leaves that haven't shriveled up yet because of the current drought.
Best advice for leaf peepers: wait for a few weeks for another crisp weekend to take your ride through eastern Kentucky to find the most vivid colors.