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Why You Might See Red This Autumn

May 2014

Why is New England so spectacular in autumn

If you read many travel adverts, you will see that the media is now full of great offers to visit New England this fall. Certainly this part of north eastern United States is renowned for the magnificent colours of its trees in autumn and many photographs show staggering images of whole forests decked in deep reds and yellows that really do take your breath away.

The intensity of colour that occurs at that time of year in this region is a fortunate mix of soil, altitude, weather and the natural abundance of specific species of trees including the dramatic red maple that is being now being grown over here, as well as sumac, sourwood, dogwoods and hickory.

The level of colours in the autumn displays in New England are variable and some years may not give a good showing. A lot of the variation is due to weather. The brilliance and depth of the colours that develop in the leaves relates closely to the temperature and also levels of moisture immediately before and during the time when chlorophyll begins to diminish in the leaves.

The best conditions include a succession of warm and sunny but not too hot days and cold, crisp nights that do not drop to freezing point. These sorts of days ensure lots of sugars are still produced in the leaves but the cool nights and the natural closing of the veins stop the sugars from being carried out of the leaf.

The high levels of sugar and light encourage the production of anthocyanin pigments and this is what makes the difference. Leaves always contain carotenoids giving yellow and gold colours, but the anthocyanin pigments help to create the deep reds, scarlets, purples and crimsons.

If there has been a lack of rainfall in the summer and if there is a warm spell during late summer/early autumn, the leaves may lack their deep intensity. The best conditions to herald a glorious autumn display is a warm wet spring, medium hot and dry summer weather and then warm sunny autumn days with cool nights.

Generally September and October are the best times to see these amazing autumnal colours, and of course you don’t have to go to New England although, on a good year, the region is unique in the intensity of colour and the size of its beautiful red leaf forests.

The eastern coast of Canada also has areas that can offer fabulous displays, and here in the UK there are lots of arboretums, gardens and parks that often have the most dramatic colouring. But without doubt New England has cornered the market here, and has become so popular that generally you need to book around now to get some of the best deals.

For more information on where to find peak foliage in America, visit their Forest Service's Fall Colors website There doesn’t appear to be an update yet for this year but it has lots of information that remains current; plus of course normal sources on travel and holidays can provide information as well.

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