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Leaf Forecast 2021: WNC Fall Colors Will Peak In October

Courtesy of Western Carolina University
WCU Professor Beverly Collins says the peak fall colors in Cullowhee will be in mid-October.

Despite recent severe weather, this year’s fall leaf forecast for Western North Carolina is looking bright. Here’s when colors will be at their peak:

The fall colors of red, orange and yellow will be best at high elevation in mid-October says Professor Beverly Collins, who teaches biology at Western Carolina University.

“I think our color change at Cullowhee, which will be at about 2,000 ft will be at about end of October,”  said Collins.  

Warm temperatures and excessive rain from the recent tropical storms have not helped the leaves which are brightest in the crisp fall air.

“Where its been a little bit rainer – actually a lot rainer - and warm, the colors are likely to be pretty but not spectacularly bright,” said Collins.

However, the current climate will extend leaf season into late November.

“Our colors have been changing a bit later and I expect that trend to continue,” said Collins.  

The leaves change at different times based on tree type and elevation. At the highest elevation are usually evergreens and below those are hardwoods like maple and birch trees.

“Trees that turn yellow and red and because they are higher elevation they turn earlier,” said Collins.  

Collins says that this extended season of fall colors could be here to stay thanks for climate change.

Lilly Knoepp is Senior Regional Reporter for Blue Ridge Public Radio. She has served as BPR’s first fulltime reporter covering Western North Carolina since 2018. She is from Franklin, NC. She returns to WNC after serving as the assistant editor of Women@Forbes and digital producer of the Forbes podcast network. She holds a master’s degree in international journalism from the City University of New York and earned a double major from UNC-Chapel Hill in religious studies and political science.
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