Colorful Fall Season
Fall in West
Virginia is a spectacular show of colors which natives tend
to take for granted. The profusion of intensely
colored foilage in the eastern United States, especially
in West Virginia, occurs in few other places -- some
parts of western Europe and eastern Asia and a few spots
Reds are red oak,
red maple, and sumac. Scarlets are pin oak,
scarlet oak, dogwood, black gum, sassafras. Reddish
are black oak and black cherry. Purple is white
ash and white oak varies from purplish red to violet.
Yellow is common in sugar maple which also may be
orange to red, sycamore, elm, willow, hickory,
tuliptree, and birch. Golden bronze is persimmon
and beech. Gold is aspen. Dull orange
is chestnut oak. Russet is basswood.
colors arrive from late September to late October,
again depending upon the area of the state. Yellows
and reds cascade from the highest peaks downward to the
hills and valleys. Soon golds and bronzes color the
hillsides. The thrill of being in the
mountains at their peak color is one of the joys of
exploring the Mountain State.
From west to east the
colors appear as follows: western one-third counties
south of Parkersburg diagonally through the eastern
part of Kanawha County and into Greenbrier County -- late
October; north-central counties south of northern panhandle
-- mid October; northern panhandle -- early October; central
counties of Nicholas, Webster, and Randolph -- early October;
the remaining eastern counties (except the four most eastern)
-- late September; and the eastern panhandle counties of
Hampshire, Morgan, Berkeley, and Jefferson -- late October.
Mast. Fall is the
season when nut trees and other flora produce mast
essential to the survival of forest animals. Beechnuts,
hickory nuts, acorns from white oaks and chestnut oaks,
walnuts, apples, grapes, blackberries, and mast from understory
trees and shrubs such as hawthorn, dogwood, sassafras are
Why the change in colors?
Supposedly, according to an old Native American story, celestial
hunters slew the Great Bear during the fall and his blood,
dripping on the forest, covered the leaves in red.
When fat splattered from the frying pan, it turned some
of the leaves yellow.
Science tells us that
during fall the true colors of leaves are revealed.
Molecules of carotene, which are yellow, and those of xanthophyll,
which are orange and red, are present in leaves all year
long. At summer's end, which brings changes in temperature
and day length, a layer of cork cells forms where each leaf
is attached, cutting off the flow of water and minerals.
Leaves stop producing chlorophyll which is needed to absorb
light. As the chlorophyll breaks down and disappears,
the hidden reds, oranges, and yellows from nature's palette
paint the West Virginia hills with vibrant colors. When
the cork layers dissolve, the colorful leaves fall to the
Last updated on Monday, July 24, 2000