Location: Norwich, VT
My favorite tree is the sugar maple. It’s a remarkably generous tree, giving delectably sweet syrup each spring, cool shade in the summer and vibrant eye candy in the fall. This pale grainy hardwood makes beautiful furniture, and burns long and bright in my woodstove on the rare occasion that I have a few logs of it to through on the fire. As a photographer, I have a passion (obsession?) for photographing its colorful leaves each autumn. Likewise, the daily conversation from mid-September through mid-October inevitably turns to the state of the current year’s fall foliage. Is it peak color? Is this year better or worse than last year? And why?
All deciduous trees turn color in the fall just before dropping their leaves. As the number of daylight hours decreases, so does a trees ability to produce chlorophyll, which makes their leaves green. As chlorophyll production ceases, cartenoids which cause yellow, orange and brown leaf color and anthocyanins which cause reds (and blue fruit hues) become more prominent in the leaves of trees depending on the species. Among maples, fall leaf color is a way to identify the tree. Red maple turn bright red, whereas sugar maple turn orange and red. Black maple turn yellow, and striped maple simply lose all color.
Temperature and precipitation determine the brilliance of the landscape. The most glorious display occurs when it’s a wet spring, a sunny summer and a mild fall in which the nights are cool, but not below freezing. Is this year better than last year? This avid leaf-peeper can’t tell, but it sure seems as if peak color came a week earlier.