Dazzling fall color season predicted
Mother Nature is putting more pigment in her paintbrush this fall as abundant moisture and ideal temperatures are predicted to produce a stunning fall color display in Minnesota and parts of North Dakota.
Maple leaves are already showing yellow and orange, and the sumacs are turning a brilliant crimson red at Maplewood State Park near Pelican Rapids, Minn.
"We've had a good amount of moisture, and I anticipate a very good fall color season here," said Jeff Fjestad, assistant park manager.
Moisture is a major influence on leaf coloring, and there's been plenty of it this year. Fargo's rainfall total is about 2.4 inches above normal so far in September and 6.3 inches above normal for the year.
But that's only part of the coloring picture. Temperature also plays an important role, and the area's recent sunny days and cool-but-not-freezing nights are ideal for producing the brilliant anthocyanin pigments that turn leaves red, purple and crimson, the U.S. Forest Service says.
Yellow and gold colors re-main fairly constant from year to year because the carotenoid pigments that cause those colors are always present in leaves, the Forest Service says.
The North Dakota Tourism Department released its first fall foliage report of this season on Thursday. Observers reported 3 percent of the leaves had turned color in Fargo, 5 to 10 percent in Bismarck, 15 percent in Devils Lake and 10 percent in Grand Forks.
At the Sheyenne State Forest in southeast North Dakota's Ransom County, forest technician Lorin Fornes said the colors are just starting to change and should reach their peak in two to three weeks.
"We've had cooler nights, so that really kind of gets things going, and the shorter days, too," he said.
Fall color season may be cut short in north-central North Dakota. A National Weather Service freeze watch was in effect from late tonight through mid-morning Saturday.
Glenda Fauske, information coordinator for the North Dakota Forest Service in Bottineau, said the Turtle Mountains were expected to get frost, which will drastically shorten the coloring period and cause leaves to fall faster. Cool, wet conditions in northern counties have caused fungus to form on some leaves, putting them under even more stress, she said.
"But Fargo should be beautiful for a while," she said.
In Minnesota, forestry and climatology officials predict a "stunning" fall color season, according to the state's tour-ism agency.
Color has been subdued the last four years because of dry conditions, but this summer provided the right amount of rain and sunshine for healthy trees and good pigment development, Explore Minnesota stated in its fall color report.
Fjestad said he expects colors to peak early next week through the first week of October at Maplewood State Park, which has scheduled "Leaf Days" activities Sept. 25-26 and Oct. 2-3 to coincide with the fall color season.
"It's very pretty, and it's changing quickly," he said.
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Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528