The Plant Man column
for publication week of 10/03/04 - 10/09/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Breathtaking fall colors: where to find the best!
Once again, it’s the fall season in America, and as temperatures begin
to cool, deciduous trees from coast to coast are changing into their
spectacular autumn clothing!
Whether it’s a spur-of-the-moment romantic getaway weekend, or a
memorable family trip, this could be the perfect time for you to take
a couple of days and catch the breathtaking display of color that
Mother Nature has provided for your pleasure.
If you don’t live in an area where the fall colors are very exciting,
or if you’d just like a change of scenery, you might be surprised to
find how close you are to some outstanding fall color shows.
This week, I’ll point you at some web sites that will quickly and
easily help you pinpoint the best places to see fall colors, both
close to home and a little farther afield. To make it even easier, I
have provided hot links to each of the sites listed here. Simply go to
www.landsteward.org and find this column archived under the Plant Man”
heading. Click on the links and you’ll be taken directly to the
This extremely comprehensive site, hosted by the USDA Forest Service,
lists both national forest and regional fall foliage ‘hot spots’ that
should provide enough information for even the most dedicated leaf
For example, you can click on the region that interests you (each
regional heading lists the states that are covered) and scroll down to
see a report on an individual forest or location. Some listings are
updated almost weekly by local “spotters” who provide online advice
about current color conditions, and also include the estimated peak
color period and recommended viewing routes.
And if you think the only place to see superb fall colors is New
England, this site will make you think again! You’ll find current
reports and photographs of recommended fall color viewing sites in
states such as Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Louisiana and Texas, among
Browse through this site and you’ll learn that the Davy Crockett
National Forest in Texas is best viewed from highways 7, 103W and 21
to Ratcliff Lake and the peak viewing period is mid-November, but as
of this week, “recent rains and mild temperatures are keeping things
very green in Texas. There are no real signs of fall colors at this
time,” according to the USDA Forest Service spotter.
This site concentrates on fall colors in the eastern United States. If
you want to see eastern colors, this is an ideal place to start. But
regardless of your location or travel plans, take a look at the
section titled “Fall Color Finder.” This is a visual reference guide
to many of the trees that sport the most spectacular autumn color.
The Weather Channel has created a useful site to help coordinate your
leaf-peeping this year. You can select a region and see one of those
familiar Weather Channel maps. But in this case, the colored bands
don’t represent incoming snow storms or hurricanes. The colors refer
to current color conditions such as: past peak, peak, near peak and
patchy. Well worth checking before you set out on your trip.
You’ve probably already thought of this, but just in case... go to
Google, type in the words “fall color” and the state that interests
you, and you’ll see an entire Google-full of web site resources you
can click on!
If the kids ask you why leaves change color in the fall and your
answer is, “Um, they just do,” then you might want to take a look at
this web site hosted by the Morton Arboretum. It’s a comprehensive
explanation with some attractive photos, but if all that stuff about
carotenoids and anthocyanins is starting to make YOU change color,
you might prefer the next site:
This site is by “Science Made Simple” and is intended for children,
but it’s a good (and brief) explanation for just about anyone.
Regardless of where you live, you’re in driving distance of some
spectacular fall colors, so go out and treat yourself to a free show!
And if you’d like to plant some trees of your own that will provide
future fall color, send me an e-mail (including your location) and
I’ll give you some suggestions.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send your questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, including archived columns, visit