Dry year boosts fall foliage

Shannon Mullen Oct 8, 2012

New England is famous for its golden fall colors, but the real stunners are the deep reds and purples. They come from a pigment called anthocyanin that some tree species have and make more of during dry weather.

“Sugar maple, which is one of the most famous of all of our northeastern tree species, they have some beautiful reds in them, so they can shift more towards the red side,” says Prof. Don Leopold, a tree scientist at SUNY Syracuse.

The National Climatic Data Center says the first four months of this year were among the driest on record in parts of the Northeast, and the resulting bright colors are good for business.

“Hotels, restaurants, campgrounds, retail stores — everybody benefits from the leaves being beautiful colors,” says Mikey Duprey, a regional tour guide in New Hampshire and one of the state’s official Leaf Peepers. “Even for somebody who’s been here almost all of his life, I find myself saying, ‘Look at that red, and look at that yellow.’ It never gets old.” 

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