Fall’s colors

Leaves are already falling from some trees in the Marietta area, causing some concern that this year’s fall color foliage season won’t be as bright as in years past. But forest officials say not to worry, the peak color season is still coming.

The large pin oaks in front of Judy Phillips’ home on Washington Street began shedding their leaves late last month.

“I’ve been raking them for about two weeks now, but these trees never lose all of their leaves-there’s still plenty left on both trees in April,” she said, raking the nut brown leaves into a large pile Wednesday afternoon.

“But it’s normal for these trees to start dropping leaves about this time of year,” she said.

Casey Burdick, fall color forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, agreed some trees in this area will begin losing leaves in early October.

“We also had a lot of hard rain last weekend, which knocked the leaves off trees a bit early, but I’m still looking for a good season with colorful fall foliage in that area,” she said. “In Washington County you’re probably about two weeks out for the peak color season. The bright colors should be very noticeable there in a couple of weeks.”

Burdick said the recent short sunny days and long cool nights are perfect weather for developing the brightest leaf colors in the fall.

The color is generated by less sunlight reaching leaves in the fall which causes a chemical change that turns green leaves of hickory, birch and beech trees into various shades of yellow, brown, and orange, according to the Ohio DNR web site.

Called carotenoids, the colors are present all year long, but they’re hidden by green chlorophylls in leaves during the spring and summer.

Shades of red and purple, called anthocyanin pigment, develop in late summer in the sap cells of tree leaves that are rich in sugar, including maples, oaks, sweetgums, and dogwoods.

When fall arrives the various leaf hues color forest landscapes across the state, making the fall foliage season a great time for tourism, according to Jeri Knowlton, executive director of the Marietta Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“People take pleasure in driving through the county year round, but especially during the peak season in the fall when the leaves are in full color,” she said. “And with our farms, rivers and forested hills there is plenty of scenery.”

Knowlton noted the local fall color viewing season really kicks off this weekend with fall foliage tours scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.

Hill United Methodist Church sponsors a tour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday that begins at the County Home on County House Lane, then progresses to Sweetapple Farms on Sweetapple Road near Vincent, and ends with lunch at Hill UMC on Ohio 333.

The Little Muskingum Watershed Association’s annual fall foliage tour takes place all day on both Saturday and Sunday, according to the Marietta Washington County CVB’s web site.

The self-guided tour winds along Ohio 26 through the Wayne National Forest and along the Little Muskingum River past four covered bridges more than 100 years old.