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Penn State: Warm, wet autumn could mute, delay foliage in Pennsylvania

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Fall foliage at Children's Lake

Some fall foliage was popping up by Oct. 22, 2019, at Children's Lake in Boiling Springs.

The days are starting to get shorter and a little chillier, which means autumn is upon us and with it one of the most stunning natural cycles: the turning of the leaves. Buzz60’s Maria Mercedes Galuppo has the story.

Experts with Penn State's College of Agricultural Science say weather conditions will need to be cooler and drier in the next few weeks for Pennsylvania's forests to see the vibrant colors of fall foliage.

“Due to the wet summer, this was shaping up to be a banner year for the foliage, but we need the weather now to cooperate and cool down,” said Marc Abrams, professor of forest ecology and physiology in the College of Agricultural Sciences. “With unusually warm weather predicted until the middle of October, I expect that will delay and somewhat diminish fall colors.”

Though the wet summer may have helped set up a good season of fall foliage, it may have also increased leaf spotting fungus that could also diminish coloration.

Abrams said that cooler temperatures signal deciduous trees to stop producing chlorophyll, which breaks down and disappears, unmasking other leaf pigments. These pigments are what create the yellows and oranges seen in the leaves of yellow poplar, hickory, sycamore, honey locust, birch, beech and certain maples.

When the chlorophyll production stops, the trees also produce another pigment that create the reds and purple seen in maples, sassafras, sumac, blackgum and scarlet oak, Abrams said.

"One thing that I have been impressed with in my nearly 40 years of gauging foliage is the resiliency of the display," he said. "Year after year, despite the conditions, there are places where the trees show good color, but perhaps not great color every year."

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