AUSTIN (KXAN) — If you were hoping to view some beautiful fall foliage this month, you may be in for some bad luck. Arborists with the Davey Tree Expert Company said this year’s drought may have caused many trees to shed their leaves early.
This year has seen one of Texas’ more extreme recent droughts. Worsening drought is expected this winter as well. A third year of La Niña is expected; that means warmer and drier weather during the colder months. While snow and/or precipitation is possible, it is less likely.
Meteorologist Nick Bannin spoke with Dave Madden with Davey to learn more about the impact the drought has had on fall foliage. You can watch the video above or read the transcript below to learn more.
Nick Bannin, KXAN News: Dave Madden joins us from the Davey Tree Expert Company. Dave, as we head deeper into the fall months, what are you expecting as far as fall foliage is concerned?
Dave Madden, Davey Tree Expert Company: Well, I would, I would say, sporadic. In a nutshell, we’ve had some recent weather that’s been very nice. As far as cool nights, warm, sunny days, we’ve had a nice run of those. And that normally would set us up for good color.
What really triggers fall around here is not warmth or cold or anything else, but actually the length of the day.
As our nights grow longer, and now we’re getting to notice that the days are getting shorter and the sun’s going down sooner, that’s the real trigger to trees to start shutting down. But then there’s other factors that have impact on that.
Bannin: What factors set you up for some nice leaf color before those leaves drop or kind of a dull color?
Madden: These cool nights, warm, sunny days are great. If we were to have a real cold hard frost or freeze even too early, well that wipes them out, they probably drop off, we don’t have much color.
These nice cool nights, long days or shorter days and warm sunny days is a nice — the sugars have time to pull in those leaves.
Then we start to see those pigments, the ones that cause the reds and the pinks and the fuchsias that would be the anthocyanins, and then the carotenoid are the ones that caused the oranges and yellows, which we’re beginning to see now, the earlier.
Bannin: Let’s talk about leaf drop because that happens every year. But sometimes it happens earlier some years than others. What are you expecting this year?
Madden: Well, that’s been a problem. And that’s why the issue, the caveat, on the fall foliage and being it sporadic, because of the extended drought we’ve been in, a lot of trees have already lost most if not all of their leaves a lot of our seed rounds or our round out and turn round, they dropped off their leaves.
That’s just their response to they’re losing water faster than they can replace it.
What we will have around here is you will see pockets where maybe they got lucky rain in August or September a few people did. They got to hang on to their leaves. Maybe they’re down in a creek bottom or something where there’s more soil, retaining more moisture.
Those trees are where we’re going to see the flashes of color, and potentially some really good color on the people that do have it this year because of the weather we’ve had recently.
Bannin: How much earlier than normal are we seeing these trees losing their leaves?
Madden: Oh, a couple of months. Really. I mean, last time we talked it was about the drought and the fact that trees were dropping their leaves. They’ve been dropping leaves really since August. So they’ve had two months to lose leaves.
A lot of the trees unfortunately have lost most of their leaves and will miss their color. But there will be pockets where those leaves are hanging on and you begin to see it now with the yellows appearing on the elms and the pecans and the reds are soon to follow.
Bannin: Right. So it sounds like we’ll be mowing those leaves that have fallen to the ground early for a long period. And it’s going to be drawn out.
Madden: Yes, yes. And definitely if you can avoid raking them, grind them up, to return them to the soil. That’s just nature’s natural recycling process, almost self-fertilization, so leave them on the ground if you can.