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Annual fall color extravaganza beginning in northwoods

The extravaganza of colors in Wisconsin’s forests is one show that is undeterred by the pandemic. The annual display is beginning now.

“The vibrant splashes of red we’re seeing now in the Northwoods are primarily red maples that have been stressed by high water tables in lowland areas,” said Colleen Matula, forest silviculturist/ecologist with the DNR division of forestry. “The colors in upland forests are at about 10 percent of their fall colors, so the annual color showcase is just beginning.”

Peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October, with peak color generally occurring during mid-October in central Wisconsin and during the latter half of October in southern Wisconsin. The timing of the color change varies by species.

“Fall color predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are based on mathematical algorithms that factor in historical leaf peak, temperatures, precipitation, leaf volume, health and day length,” said Matula. “The intensity of Wisconsin’s fall color season is dependent on the weather the state receives during September and October. To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool, but frost-free evenings are required.”

Wisconsin is blessed to have the combination of tree species and climatic conditions necessary for vivid fall foliage. “With a 17-million-acre forest resource in Wisconsin that is increasing in volume each year, fall color is one show that must go on,” Matula concluded.

For information on the science of fall color, visit the DNR’s website.

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