Fall foliage running behind this year - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Fall foliage running behind this year

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During the first full week of November most of the trees in the area are usually bare.

That's not the case this year. Many of us are probably wondering why it took the leaves longer than usual to change color. The answer is pretty simple.

Dan Riggs, Executive Director of Klehm Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Rockford, explains the reasoning behind the late change.

"It's mainly because of the lack of cooler temperatures that we've experienced this fall. The process of the leaf shutting down and losing its chlorophyll so the other colors can show up is a function of the length of the day, temperatures at night, and when that first killer frost is."

Not all trees behave the same way. Some are more sensitive to the elements. Rain, wind, temperature, frost, and sunlight all have an effect on the leaves.

"Obviously some trees lose their leaves relatively quickly. The example that we noticed this year was the gingkos. Other trees, like some of the oak species, hang onto their leaves through the winter," said Riggs.

In northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, we usually see our first killing frost within the first ten days or so of October. That wasn't the case this year with the Rockford area seeing its first widespread frost on October 22nd. That delayed the colorful change of leaves we usually see this time of year by about two to three weeks.

Back in 2012, you might remember, our fall foliage was almost non-existent. The trees were suffering from a lack of water, so they shed their leaves quickly without much color.

"When we have drought like we had last year, the subsoil moistures were very low. You could dig down two to three feet and still not have moisture," said Riggs.

Rainfall at this time of year will help the trees and other plants next Spring.

So the next time you grumble about those rainy or chilly days, just remember that our bright fall colors are the beautiful results!

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