While it may seem that the gorgeous colors of fall are painted on the landscape, it¹s really an intricate chemical process that prompts leaves to change their colors in the early weeks of autumn.
There are few places in the entire world where fall is so spectacular and each year, New Hampshire draws millions of visitors to see the color show, which plays out during the unique weeks of weather here, the variety of trees that undergo this transformation and the rugged terrain.
Observers will note that sometime in mid-to-late August, the lush green leaves they have seen all summer will begin to fade and become dull. That¹s a signal that trees have made enough chlorophyll, which gave them that rich green color, for the year. As the days grow shorter and the nights become cooler, there is an imperceptible trigger that makes the chlorophyll break down as the trees stop producing the food. The green disappears, replaced by the hues of red, yellow and orange as fall marches through September and October.
Just how vibrant the colors will be depends on other chemical processes. For example, the brilliant red of the maples depends on how much sugar is produced in the leaves and trapped in the chill of an autumn night. The more sugar that accumulates, the brighter red the leaves turn. And how vivid the colors will be depends of factors, such as how exposed to the sun the leaves are and the effects of warm sun and rain.
Despite all this science, each fall season in New Hampshire is predictably unpredictable and prompts endless discussions in coffee shops and at the lunch counter about how bright the leaves will be this year.
As the leaves become brighter and brighter, talk will turn to when they all reach peak - that moment when when they are as vivid and spectacular as they can possibly be. It¹s a moment in a place that can simply take your breath away as you take it all in.
No one can predict when foliage will peak and that is part of the wonder of this season. It all rests with Mother Nature and her mercurial moods.
We can tell you, however, that peak foliage typically occurs up here in the White Mountains from the end of September through the second week of October. Even after leaves reach their peak in a certain area, the colors can hang on for a week or two.