Autumn In Transylvania

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Every fall in western North Carolina is beautiful, but some seasons can be more brilliantly colorful than others. Leaf type, the weather and the trees’ growing conditions determine the fullness of color. The first condition is a good growing season, so that the trees have not been stressed during the summer. Secondly, the fall season must turn dry. Sunny fall weather helps create a colorful fall. A cold snap is another factor. For some, the best fall color is seen after springs with low levels of rainfall, when plant growth is stunted by a lack of sufficient water. Lack of rainfall stresses the trees, and that stress typically results in more colorful foliage. Predicting the beauty of autumn in western North Carolina is a big task because conditions can differ from ridge to ridge and between ridges and valleys. Temperature and rainfall differences can be found in the relatively short distance between Brevard and Cedar Mountain. The color of leaves change at different elevations. The lower elevations change after the higher elevations. Rosman, at 2,400 feet, will change later than Gorges State Park, which is at 3,200 feet. The earliest leaves to change are found atop the biggest mountains, like Mt. Mitchell, which stands at 6,684 feet. A unique feature of this area’s forestry is the high diversity of trees. It is common to have 25 to 30 different trees in a cove forest. Some of these trees are bound to meet the requirements for intense color. A few to look out for are oaks and hickories on the ridges. They are some of the best trees for fall colors. Red maples that are in coves and hang onto their leaves long enough can be impressive, though the red maples on the ridges tend to drop their leaves earlier.

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