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Welcome to the Fall Foliage Report for October 23, brought to you by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. This season continues to bring on the best fall color Maryland has seen in years, as Washington and Frederick counties reach peak foliage.

Scott Campbell, forester, Potomac-Garrett State Forest, says: “This is the last gasp from the Potomac-Garrett State Forest in Garrett County.” 

Allegany County Fall Foliage Credit: Dan Hedderick / Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Dan Hedderick, project forester, Forest Service, Allegany County, reports: “The leaves are coming down everywhere. Color is staggered, with some trees like walnut already done, and others like oak just starting. Distant landscapes with color are very evident. Close up, landscapes have started to open up, giving you more of a view deeper into the forest with the coming down of leaves.”

Aaron Cook, forester, Clear Spring, Washington County, says: “The continued calm weather and only light scattered showers and gentle breezes have allowed the best foliage in years to stay on the trees; everywhere I look in Washington County seems to be at peak color or very close.  This is definitely the time to take a drive on country roads, or go for a hike along the Western Maryland Rail Trail, or visit the

South Mountain State Park complex. In Frederick County, Cunningham Falls State Park or Catoctin Mountain Park would be great destinations to take in the best color in years.  If the weather stays calm, the color should linger for a little while longer, so get out and enjoy this amazing fall color.”

(Far left and right): Washington Monument State Park, (center) Greenbrier State Park, Credit: Emily Bard / Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Robert R. Schwartz, forester, Clear Spring, Washington County, tells us: “We have progressed, even in the few days since the end of last week, with the oscillating cool nights and warm days doing their job to encourage the trees to turn. The warm spell this week may slow things down a little bit though. The southern portion of Washington County lags probably about a week behind the far western and northeastern parts, where the color seems to be at peak. The blackgum and red maple have all donned their brilliant autumn scarlet, while the sugar maples and tulip poplar glow with sunlight yellows illuminating all beneath them. Even the oaks seem to be getting in on it this year as I saw several turning an interesting mix of purple and orange, rather than brown.”

Emily Bard, South Mountain Recreation Area, tells us: “Well leaf peepers, I think this is it! This weekend will probably be your best opportunity to see the fall colors at South Mountain Recreation Area. We are expecting good weather for the weekend, but keep an eye on that, as rain could cause the leaves to drop. Otherwise, get out there and enjoy it before it’s too late!”

Elk Neck State Park Credit: Shawna Staup / Maryland Department of Natural Resources

From Cecil County, Ranger Shawna Staup reports: “Elk Neck State Park is still in the midpoint range for fall foliage, but nearing the peak. There are many trees turning a beautiful shade of yellow with a few reds and oranges mixed in. Most of the understory trees have already lost their leaves, opening up the forest horizon to a view of the Chesapeake Bay and Elk River. “

Ranger Diana Marsteller, Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area says:  “We are at peak colors here, or quite close to it! A full spectrum of autumn colors can be seen in our forest canopies. This is a great time for wildlife viewing at the park as many creatures are getting ready for the upcoming winter. “

At Gunpowder Falls State Park in Baltimore County, Ranger Angela Crenshaw says: “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, especially along the Gunpowder River at the Hammerman Area of Gunpowder Falls State Park.”

Ranger Shannon Davis says: “The Black Marsh Wildlands in North Point State Park is a great birding spot and many species are migrating through. Today I saw a little blue heron, two bald eagles, and various sparrows and warblers. It certainly looks like fall here. We have the reds, oranges, and yellows of dogwood, sumacs, sweetgum, spicebush, and sassafras. Even the vines of Virginia creeper and poison ivy are turning beautiful colors. The oaks are just beginning to turn.”

Ranger Alyssa Myers tells us: “Patapsco Valley State Park is starting to change colors. All areas are still extremely busy on weekends, so we are advising visitors to see come see the leaves on weekdays.”

Seasonal Ranger Ryan Keller, Seneca Creek State Park reports: “The spectrum of autumnal colors is quickly emerging in full splendor in Montgomery County. While the weather is becoming cooler, deciduous trees and shrubs are showing warmer tones of red, orange, yellow, purple, and brown. Although some pockets of green still remain, oaks, often the last to change, are shedding their acorns and turning colors, signaling the final fleeting stages of autumn’s kaleidoscopic metamorphosis.”

In Southern Maryland, Ranger Peter Conrad Leongini tells us: “Smallwood State Park has just recently begun to show some promising changes in color with some very deep reds being the most strikingly visible hue seen throughout the park. “

On the Eastern Shore, Ranger Cierra Maszkiewicz, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, Dorchester County, says: “The leaves are just now beginning to change in Tubman Country.”

“How do the leaves change color?”

Does Jack Frost bring the vibrant colors of red and gold to the woodlands each fall by pinching the leaves with his icy fingers? Alternatively, did the slaying of the Great Bear in the night sky by celestial hunters change many leaves to red with the bear’s dripping blood? Was the yellowing of leaves the result of fat spattering from the kettle as the hunters cooled the meat of the Great Bear? The actual cause for color change is not as romantic as these legends but is an interesting phenomenon of nature.

As summer fades into fall, the days start getting shorter and there is less sunlight. This is a signal for the leaf to prepare for winter and to stop making chlorophyll. Once this happens, the green color starts to fade and the reds, oranges, and yellows become visible.


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