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Spate of warm weather could mute fall foliage

Elizabeth Licata

Country drives may be a little duller this fall. The recent return of summer-like weather may put a damper on colorful autumn foliage across the region. Cornell University plant biology professor Karl Niklas says the unusual high temperatures and dry weather the past few weeks puts stress on trees and could have a negative effect on leaf coloration.

"We've had very dry weather now for at least two weeks. That puts the trees under stress and that often results in premature leaf droppage," Niklas said. 

"A few weeks ago I was predicting that this season would be above average in terms of the intensity of the leaf colors. Now I'm beginning to worry because some of our trees are actually dropping their leaves prematurely."

However, Niklas says the leaves that remain on the trees should be colorful, especially in higher elevations where there is a bigger fluctuation in temperatures. He says cool nights and warmer days facilitate trees coloring up.

Niklas says the ideal conditions are seasonal variations in temperature and rainfall.