Horticulturist explains circumstances that create vibrant seasonal hues
La Salle County, with its many parks, is a fantastic place to enjoy fall foliage.
For residents wanting to see nature's colors on full display, a La Salle horticulturist/plantsman said that now is a great time.
"I would tell folks wanting to see a little bit of everything colorwise should make plans to do it this weekend," said Morgan Wilson, a horticulturist/plantsman with Wilson Landscaping Co.
While the time that the stunning colors peak is different each year, residents can expect an impressive showing from late September through early November. This year especially, the changing leaves will be a comforting and welcome scene, one that can be viewed on a relaxing drive or a hike through many of the available parks.
"This year has been perfect for fall color because we had a wet spring and early summer followed by a dry mid-summer and early fall – that produces the best color," Wilson said. "The other factors are temperature and daylight, as the daylight starts to diminish and the temperatures drop, that triggers the colors in the leaves. This has been an exceptional year for getting the brightest fall colors, as far as I'm concerned.
"I feel like we are just past the midway point of the color peak right now. It came early this year because of the drought, but the reds and oranges are probably halfway, and most of the ones that are going to turn purple and burgundy haven't turned yet."
Wilson said the variety of colors we see depends on a number of different factors, and the fact that we don't see those colors prior to fall is simple.
"There are different varieties and different species of trees and then also different cultivars within a species," Wilson said. "Take the red maple family. There are probably 500 different cultivars, which are the size, shape, leaf size, colors, early fall colors, late fall colors. Those differences have their own name and produce its own special colors during fall.
"The green in the leaf is called chlorophyll – that is the energy source. The leaf absorbs the sunlight and converts it in to energy, sugars, and that is how it feeds the tree. The yellow and orange colors are always present in the leaves, but the chlorophyll overpowers those colors in the growing season. The reds and purples come from the sugars stored in the leaf used as part of the process of the trees growing."