It’s survival not just of the fittest, but of the wisest.
Deciduous trees drop their leaves in order to survive. As days grow shorter and colder, deciduous trees shut down veins and capillaries (that carry water and nutrients) with a barrier of cells that form at the leaf’s stem.
Called “abscission” cells, the barrier prevents the leaf from being nourished. Eventually, like scissors, the abscission cells close the connection between leaf and branch and the leaf falls.
Had the leaves remained on branches, the leaves would have continued to drink and, once temperatures drop to freezing, the water in the tree’s veins would freeze, killing the tree.
Further, with leaves fallen, bare branches are able to carry what little snow collects on them, protecting them from begin broken under the weight of the snow. So, by cutting off their food supply (leaves), deciduous trees survive winter.
The fallen leaves continue to benefit the tree through winter, spring and summer by creating a humus on the forest floor that insulates roots from winter cold and summer heat, collects dew and rainfall, and decomposes to enrich the soil and nurture life.
Chinese pistache, Watsonville (8/21/16) Chuck Eads
For the past week and a half, we’ve received a flush of reports of near peak fall color appearing down low (Oakland, Berkeley, Watsonville, Salinas, San Diego), though spots of color have been reported up high, too (Eastern Sierra, San Bernardino Mountains).
So, what’s the low down on color that’s down low?
Almost all the early peak color seen at lower elevations so far (with the exception of Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve in San Diego) has appeared on non-native trees, whereas native trees appear to be developing normally.
Every year, we get reports of trees with early color. Often the trees happen to be exotics (non-native), like the liquidambar that LA Leaf Peeper reported as fringed with red in June.
Does this mean an earlier autumn? We suspect not. Early change is more likely a product of a particular environment, locale or specie, than it is a harbinger of an early autumn, statewide.
Our recommendation to see the best color is to plan travel to see fall color in California, as normally. The best way to do this is to use this site as a research tool, by looking back at the area you want to visit (category) or date when you plan to visit (archives).
Notice when the color was at peak at a given location during the past five years, then pick an average date for past peaks, or find locations where it was peaking when you can travel and go there.
With either approach, your choice should be very close to peak color. And, that’s the low down on traveling to see the best fall color in California.
Near Peak (50-75%) – Watsonville Community Hospital (Go Now!)
On this Thanksgiving Day, CaliforniaFallColor.com is indebted to every color spotter and photographer who contributed photographs and reports in 2015.
They include (from first turned leaf reported): LA Leaf Peeper, Alicia Vennos, Jon Klusmire, Alena Nicholas, Trapper Felt, Carol Waller, Christine Osborne, Julie Yost, Crys Black, Nikhil Shahi, Misti Sullivan, Kevin Lennox, Ashley Hollgarth, Jen Heger, Kimberly Kolafa, Julie Kirby, Aditi Das, Jeff Hemming, Erick Castellon, Shanda Ochs, Jackson Frishman, Cuong Diep, Maddie Noiseaux, Leor Pantilat, Lara Kaylor, Jeff Simpson, Clayton Peoples, Lisa Wilkerson-Willis, Phillip Reedy Ruth Hartman, Charles Porter, Greg Newbry, Elliott McGucken, Jared Smith, Dotty Molt, Sherry Gardner, Jill Dinsmore, Josh Wray, Mike Nellor, Ivan Alo, Pushkar Gejji, Mariusz Jeglinski, Gary Young, Patricia Costa, Lisa May, Laurie Baker, Shuo Li, Dylan Ren, Brian Patterson, David Olden, Gabriel Leete, Jeri Rangel, Jim Beaux, Cory Poole, Walter Gabler, Max Forster, Jim Adams, Jeff Luke Titcomb, Nancy Wright, Bonnie Nordby, Kathy Jonokuchi, Linnea Wahamaki, Sarah Showalter, Vera Haranto Fuad, Jas E Miner, Susan Taylor, Santhakumar V A, Darrell Sano, Frank McDonough, Anson Davalos, Sandy Steinman, Anirudh Natikar, Jennifer “JMel” Mellone and Ron Tyler, who produced the above video.
We’re also grateful to the many hundreds of readers who posted comments and photos to our Facebook page and retweeted our Twitter posts. If we missed thanking you here, please know it wasn’t intentional. We we are indebted to every color spotter, photographer and commenter. Thank you all.
Additional thanks are expressed to Inyo County Tourism, Mono County Tourism, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau, Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, and The California Parks Company for underwriting California Fall Color. And, to the many reporters and media who carried our reports and gave attention to what we have shown about California’s fall color.
This thank you list is incomplete without mentioning Joan, my wife, who has: humored my recording of color percentages, species and elevations; pointed out particularly beautiful color; and driven the car and pulled it over to the shoulder, at my whim, so that I could jump out to photograph a particularly beautiful location.
Of course, our deepest thanks go to the many tens of thousands of people who have followed CaliforniaFallColor.com and our Facebook and Twitter pages. You are, after all, the reason we do this.
Autumn doesn’t end on Thanksgiving Day. It has 26 more days to go. We’ll continue to post photos and reports as received and plan a Special Report on San Diego County. Though today, we begin to dial back our reports, posting them less frequently. We also stop sending weekly reports to California TV meteorologists, travel and outdoor writers.
So, enjoy Thanksgiving Day, and we’ll see you next autumn, dude.
California (Peak 75-100%) – In our hearts, California is always peaking. GO NOW!
Patchy aspen at Rock Creek Lake (9/5/14) Alicia Vennos
Mono County Color Spotter Alicia Vennos sends these photos of locations throughout Mono County whose fall color varies from Just Starting to Patchy. While the color is – at best – patchy, there’s still plenty to do if you prefer pies, pastry, pack trips or pubs.
Rock Creek Lake Resort (9/9/14) Alicia Vennos
Patchy (10 – 50%) – Rock Creek
Aspen are beginning to brighten to lime and yellow. Don’t let the limited color depress you. Stop by the Rock Creek Lakes Resort for a slice of one of their famous fruit and cream pies. They’ll stay open until Oct. 12.
Convict Lake (9/9/14) Alicia Vennos
Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Convict Lake
Aspen near the Convict Lake Resort restaurant are a beautiful combination of flickering lime and yellow.
Patchy (10 – 50%) – McGee Creek
The color and elevation are about the same as Rock Creek, brightening to lime and yellow. Early visitors still have lots to do with hiking, horseback rides and pack trips from the McGee Creek Pack Station and a new bakery at McGee Creek Lodge. What! More pie?
Just Starting (0 – 10%0 – June Lake
June Lake is a few weeks away from color change, and the color should be glorious when the June Lake Autumn Beer Festival happens on Oct. 11 at Gull Lake Park. OK, pubs, pies, pastry and peeping. We’re pumped!
Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Lee Vining Canyon/Hwy 120
Still early, though the drive up Hwy 120 to Yosemite National Park’s east entrance is exhilarating.
Greenstone Lake, Twenty Lakes Basin (9/7/14) Alica Vennos
Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Saddlebag Lake/Tioga Pass
There’s a little color along the shore of Saddlebag Lake. People often overlook the beauty of ground cover and shrubbery
Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Lundy Canyon
This is one of those beautiful places that you have to catch close to peak. Stay tuned for their reports.
Virginia Lakes (9/1/14) Carolyn Webb
Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Virginia Lakes
Similar to Convict Lake, the Virginia Lakes area is just beginning to show color. The Aspen near the lakes are deformed by wind and weather and endlessly fascinating.
Conway Summit (9/3/14) Alicia Vennos
Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Conway Summit
It’s just starting on the north side with a patchy area to the south.
Twin Lakes (9/9/14) Alicia Vennos
Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Bridgeport/Green Creek/Twin Lakes
A little yellow high up above Twin Lakes, otherwise still in summer. Upcoming events:
Sept 20 and Oct. 18 – Bodie Foundation Photographer’s Day – photograph Bodie SHP from sunrise to sundown. To register CLICK HERE.
Sept 25 – 28 – Hiking the Valley – Join locals on guided hikes of the Antelope Valley. CLICK HERE for more info.
Oct. 4 – Deer Hunter BBQ – A secret recipe is tasted, but not revealed at the Antelope Valley Community Center. For details, CLICK HERE.
Little Lakes Valley Trail (9/1/14) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Late summer wildflowers, Little Lakes Valley Trail (9/1/14) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Just Starting – Rock Creek. With nighttime temperatures dipping into the low 40s, color spotter Alicia Vennos says the first hints of color are gracing the aspen of Mono County. Rock Creek is a perennial season leader in this part of the Eastern Sierra. Though, as of Labor Day (Sept. 1), just a few trees around the Rock Creek Lake area (9800′) were showing patches of color.
Rock Creek Road (9/1/14) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Along the Little Lakes Valley trail at the end of Rock Creek Road, the lake grass is a gorgeous blend of lime green and gold, and some hardy wildflowers are still hanging on to summer — the contrast with the reddening underbrush is delightful.
Rock Creek Road (9/1/14) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism
Rock Creek Road Construction: please note that much-needed road improvements — including the addition of a new bicycle lane — are taking place on Rock Creek Road, mid-week/non-holidays, so expect delays. For more information, CLICK HERE.
Just Starting – McGee Creek Canyon
McGee Creek Canyon and Devils Postpile are also reported to be starting to change, again at 0-10%.
Plan a visit around the June Lake Autumn Beer Festival, Sat., Oct. 11. The new June Lake Brewery, which opened in summer, will be joined by several craft brewers for the second annual festival at Gull Lake park. For more info, CLICK HERE.
Mono County Lodging – For lodging options by community/town and the best deals, visit MonoCounty.org.
New for 2014 is the California Fall Color Map seen at left. This interactive map is exclusive to CaliforniaFallColor.com and provides a quick way to see where the color is changing in California and at what stage.
Non-reporting areas appear in dark green. All reporting areas have leaves in light green, yellow, orange, red or brown, depending on the fall color’s stage of development. This new scale matches that used by The Weather Channel: Just starting, patchy, near peak, peak and past peak. The colors are based on reports received from volunteer color spotters located throughout California.
Anyone can be a color spotter. Just email a current report to editor(at)californiafallcolor.com stating where the fall color is seen, at what stage the color is (just starting, patchy, near peak, peak, past peak), your name and – if you have one – a current photograph of what you’re reporting. We’ll publish the report with credit attributed to you.
Each Thursday morning from the first day of autumn to Thanksgiving Day, we send summaries of each week’s reports to media across California (every TV meteorologist and all travel and outdoor reporters) based on reports received from our network of color spotters. The best photos could appear, with credit, in newspapers or on TV.
Though no color is yet appearing, our first report this year is from St. Helena in the Napa Valley where Brian Baker of the Chateau Montelena winery notes that an early harvest is expected. That could mean an earlier show of fall color in the vineyards.
Increasingly, since the beginning of August, blue oak leaves have begun appearing on my lawn. I never see them falling and the oaks still seem to be full of blue-green foliage. It’s an invisible rain. One day, nothing. The next, a carpet of dry detritus.
I suppose the oaks are telling me fall is approaching. This is about the time of year (early August) when our color spotters and loyal followers start looking us up, wondering if what they’re seeing is already being reported by us.
The appearance of autumn always happens here or there in mid to late summer… a single tree begins to show flashes of yellow, leaves begin falling and yards become littered as mine has.
The drought seems to have little to do with this though, certainly, lack of water affects foliage and shortens the brilliance or duration of the display. Still, there will be color change and it will be spectacular in locations throughout the state. Though, our guess is that some places that were glorious in past years, may be disappointing this year.
One way to know where the color is best, is to keep returning to this site. Our reporting begins in earnest in September, though if early reports are received we’ll post them. As in the past, anyone can be a color spotter. Simply email your report or photo to editor(at)californiafallcolor.com, comment on any of this site’s blogs, tweet to @CalifFallColor, or post on our Facebook page, California Fall Color.
If you’ve searched for us on Google lately, you may have noticed that someone supposedly hacked our site. As far as we can tell, our site was not hacked. What was hacked was how Google describes us in search results. Visiting californiafallcolor.com is entirely safe. Do not fear visiting californiafallcolor.com or clicking through on Google to it.
Our tech has reset how we describe this site to Google and I’m told it will take Google 30 days to scrub what the hacker inserted and return our listing to its correct description. The hacking of Google was a senseless, criminal act that had the effect of alarming internet users searching for our site.
More fundamental than our frustration over someone else trying to take advantage of our site’s renown is the question, “Who thinks it’s a good business practice to insert your message in someone else’s promotion?” The hacker got Google to add words promoting purchase of erectile dysfunction medication next to our site’s name and to replace the description of our site in Google with a message to buy pharmaceuticals online, in search results. However, the hacking was so inept that the hacker failed to provide a link to the pharmaceutical supplier. Had they identified themselves, we would have sought legal action to prosecute them for trade infringement.
Ah well, on to happier things. We’re working on a new, interactive California Fall Color Map to appear on the home page that will show where color can be seen in all corners of California. More about the new map will be reported in our next blog. Regular reports will begin in September, though we will publish any report of fall color emailed to editor(at)californiafallcolor.com. In the meantime, enjoy the invisible rain.
On the last day of autumn, we look back at some of our favorite photographs of 2013, while expressing thanks to all who contributed photos and reports.
Special thanks are expressed to Inyo County, Mono County, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau, Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, Humboldt County C&VB, and The California Parks Company for making California Fall Color possible. A special nod to Ron Tyler for helping to create this Animoto video.
Autumn is “winding down” at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, reports color spotter Frank McDonough, who sends these vibrant photographs.
Tule Pond, LA County Arboretum (12/11/13) Frank McDonough
(l to r) Pomagranate bush, Japanese maple, Gingko biloba “canopy” (12/11/13) Frank McDonough
(l to r) Mexican marigold, Tagetes lemmonii; Fishtail Ginkgo at the Herb Garden (12/11/13) Frank McDonough
Meadowbrook, LA Co. Arboretum (12/11/13) Frank McDonough
LA County has, along with most of the far west, experienced very cool nights (around freezing) and clear, sunny days, providing ideal conditions for leaf color development. Frank writes, “I’m starting to see red leaves on some of the east coast oaks here, and our Diamyo oak (Quercus dentate) just might develop its full color –something that doesn’t happen often.”
The intense colors seen in these photos are the result of an incorrectly balanced white card in Frank’s camera – he apologizes for the mistake – though we find it to be a lovely interpretation and representative of how many California impressionists painted California landscapes.
GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Los Angeles County – This a spectacular time to see naturally decorated trees, during the holidays, at the LA County Arboretum.
Color spotter Sandy Steinman started yesterday looking for a rare bird, the Painted Redstart which normally lives in Arizona, eastern New Mexico and northern Mexico. It had somehow winged its way north to matriculate near Berkeley and ended up itself being studied by Redstart-fevered birders. Steinman never was sure he saw the bird (perhaps a glimpse), though ended up taking these shots of spots of remaining fall color along Berkeley’s streets.
Berkeley (12/1/13) Sandy Steinman
Past Peak – Berkeley – Spots of color can still be seen with some trees not fully turned. The most exciting spot of fall color is the red, black and white Painted Redstart seen flitting through Berkeley’s urban forest. A cold front will push through Northern California, beginning today, perhaps urging the Redstart to head back to Mexico and with days expected to be cold, chilling further prospects for color development in Berkeley and forcing global warming protestors from the steps of Sproul Hall to warm themselves, indoors.