After recent weeks of hotter-than-usual weather, this week’s significant drop in temperature across the state should get things moving toward the fall colors Hoosiers love.
The best fall color formation happens with bright, warm days, cool nights and moist soils, according to Carrie Tauscher, the DNR Division of Forestry’s Community & Urban Forestry program coordinator.
While all of Indiana has experienced bright, warm days, overnight lows and soil moistures have varied dramatically throughout the state.
Nonetheless, the tourist towns of southern Indiana such as Nashville, Madison and Medora shouldn’t fret, Tauscher said. Sassafras and sweetgum trees in forest understories and along roadsides regularly give a great show of red, orange and yellow.
If you plan to go sightseeing for fall colors, you can contact the Purdue Extension office in the county of your destination for a report. Another option is to call the nearest state park. Colors vary statewide, and from county to county.
“With all the events going on in parks and orchards and other fall destinations, you’re going to enjoy the ambiance no matter what,” Tauscher said. “Just get outside and enjoy the fall.”
Leaves produce pigments that give them color. During spring and summer, the green pigment, chlorophyll, is dominant. When days become shorter, other pigments in the leaf become visible as the amount of chlorophyll dwindles.
The full forest show in central Indiana should begin in the next two to four weeks, depending on weather, and continue for several weeks as long as the state doesn’t experience windy storms, Tauscher said.
Once the leaves fall, Tauscher said Hoosiers should consider mulching their yard leaves instead of bagging them and sending them to a landfill. One option is to mow leaves and let them be absorbed into the lawn, providing nutrients for the next growing season. Another use is to layer them onto planting beds, which provides nutrients and protection against wind erosion.
“It kills me when people throw all those good leaves to the curb,” she said.