Fall color fallout

MADISON (WKOW) – Mother Nature’s most colorful time of year is almost here.

As trees begin to turn dormant for the cold months, they stop producing chlorophyll, the chemical that causes the leaves’ green pigment.

David Stevens is a curator at the UW Arboretum and keeps a close eye on the condition of the trees.

“For the most part, we have a healthy crop of leaves this year,” he said.

That’s a big difference to past autumns. In 2017, we had one of our driest Septembers on record, causing leaves to fall prematurely. In 2016, it was one of the wettest, creating fungal issues.

The best resource to see how the leaves are progressing across the state, is Travel Wisconsin’s fall color report website.

Lisa Marshall works at the Department of Tourism and says there is an entire network updating the site daily. 100 reporters are spread out across Wisconsin’s 72 counties.

Stevens says we’ll reach our peak in southern Wisconsin around the third week of October.

“(The leaves changing is) really triggered by shortening day length and not temperature,” he said.

But, if we get a bunch of rainy, windy days, they’ll fall sooner. So the kind of weather we’ve had much of September is perfect for vibrant colors.

“Ideally some warm, sunny days, like we’re having now, with cool non-freezing nights,” Stevens said.

With 40 percent of the state covered in forests, folks come from all over the Midwest this time of year.

“People want scenic drives. And we have some great Wisconsin state scenic byways. One of them is the door county coastal byway,” Marshall said.

It’s the reaction of those visiting the arboretum that keeps Stevens passionate about his job.

“We see why we go through all the trouble of maintaining this when we see what joy it brings to folks,” he said.

More on this story from WKOW 27 News

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