Don’t blink. Just that fast, autumn approaches and we’re washed in a sea of color and just like that, if you’re not paying attention, the color is gone. Now is close to peak for our area relative to color. Many people travel to Vermont, New Hampshire, New York in search of a spectacular show when in fact you need just look out your window to catch some great color.
A great while ago I lived in South Jersey close to the pine barrens. A very pretty area, but there was one thing that always bothered me. It was flat. Even though there was some great foliage during fall you could not appreciate it to the extent you can in the northern and western part of the state. Out in Warren, Hunterdon, and Sussex Counties, to name a few, there are rolling hills which greatly augment the leaf peeping experience. Hop on route 29 along the Delaware and you can really appreciate the dramatic elevation changes of the water gap coupled with trees like sugar maple, red maple, black gum, and sassafras to name a few. Drive up the palisades along the Hudson and you will be equally treated by great color and changes in landscape. You might choose to drive up route 23 towards high point where you’ll see some amazing color and fantastic rolling hills. Driving through areas like Long Valley and Amwell Valley you will be rewarded handsomely with fabulous foliage and great topography. This is just a snippet of areas in our great state of New Jersey that offer elevation changes coupled with exceptional fall display. The point here is to open your eyes and don’t miss the dynamic display because if you blink it will be gone.
Did you know the major factor triggering autumn foliage is the length of day? The green pigment in leaves is chlorophyll. As the days begin to shorten, cells begin to block the movement of chlorophyll from leaf to plant and other pigments begin to show. I won’t get too technical on you, but the reds, yellows, oranges are all driven by pigments that exist in the leaf, but through summer are suppressed by chlorophyll. So it is day length that begins the onset of color and allows our trees and shrubs to shut down. However, color will be heightened by a dry fall and cool nights. Warmer days help the situation as well. This recipe is being put together this fall, so conditions are perfect for leaf peeping. Remember that Autumn is a dynamic kaleidoscope. Typically, Maples begin the show with Oaks bringing up the rear and Hickories, Beech, Birch, Nyssa sprinkled in for good measure. The best things in life often times truly are free, we just need to appreciate them so get out there and open your eyes because it will be gone soon.