Unusually warm temperatures have delayed the fall color display in Indiana this year, according to DNR community and urban forester Carrie Tauscher.
The best fall color formation happens when there are bright, warm days, cool nights and moist soils.
While all of Indiana has experienced bright, warm days, the occurrence of cool nights and soil moisture have varied dramatically throughout the state. With late fall color change comes the chance for a shortened window for full fall color enjoyment.
Nonetheless, the tourist towns of southern Indiana such as Nashville, Madison and Medora shouldn’t fret, Tauscher said. Sassafras and sweetgum trees in forest understories and along roadsides are giving a great show of red, orange and yellow, and red oaks and black tupelo seem to be making good color, despite the lack of moisture, and the sugar and red maples across the state have been especially vibrant.
Fall colors aside, this fall has given Hoosiers excellent weather for traveling and outdoor recreation. Extended forecasts show the trend continuing, with plenty of sunshine and daytime high temperatures in the 60s and 70s.
“With all the events going on in parks and orchards and other fall destinations, you’re going to enjoy the ambiance no matter what,” Tauscher said. “Just get outside and enjoy the fall.”
Leaves produce pigments that give them color. During spring and summer, the green pigment, chlorophyll, is dominant. When days become shorter, other pigments in the leaf become visible as the amount of chlorophyll dwindles.
The forest fireworks show in central Indiana should continue for several weeks as oaks begin to turn, Tauscher said.
Once the leaves fall, Tauscher said Hoosiers should consider mulching their yard leaves instead of bagging them and sending them to a landfill. One option is to mow the leaves and let them be absorbed back into your lawn, providing nutrients for the next growing season. Another is to layer them onto planting beds, which provides nutrients and protects against wind erosion.
“It kills me when people throw all those good leaves on the curb,” she said.