Will 2011 Be The Colorless Autumn?

People worry we won’t have fall foliage. I’m not sure I disagree. What’s outside my window is very disheartening.

The emails and Facebook posts have begun to arrive. People worry we won’t have fall foliage. I’m not sure I disagree. What’s outside my window is very disheartening.

First things first. It’s early. Maybe I’m just looking too hard for something that shouldn’t be here yet?

On the other hand I read Ed Mahony’s article a few weeks ago in the Courant. He interview Chris Martin, forestry director for the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Property owners have already begun to notice brown splotches on withered or curling leaves, mostly on their maples. In some cases, they are reporting that the trees are losing leaves prematurely. The problem is more common in moist, low-lying areas like the Connecticut River Valley than on higher, drier hills, Martin said.

He said the culprits were a family of fungi called anthracnose and a separate species called tar spot. Both are always present in stands of hardwood trees, but become a problem during unusually wet growing seasons.

“These are things that are always in the background,” Martin said. “The spores become active in the spring each year. Normally, summer gets dry enough that they die off. This year because of a wet spring, with August being as wet as it was and certainly because of the tropical storms of recent weeks, it has got these guys going.”

On maples, anthracnose creates purplish-brown areas along leaf veins and larger, irregular brown spots between the veins. It creates scattered brown spots or splotches on oaks that look like scorch marks. Tar spot causes spots that look as if they were caused by drops of tar.

What he described is what I’m seeing in the trees around my house. There are a few splotches of color. They’re unusual enough to stand out like a gray patch in an otherwise dark head-of-hair.

I’m hopeful, but not optimistic.

9 thoughts on “Will 2011 Be The Colorless Autumn?”

  1. We drove to southern/central Vermont yesterday and there was no foliage of any kind there either. We were surprised and very disappointed. There was still a lot of evidence of hurricane Irene, as many roads were still closed and road crews were out still repairing lots of damage….incredible!

  2. This fall is so much like an English Autumn so far the nights have been fairly mild and the days still warm. The spots are something I am really used to in the UK too. Our Autumn was never rubbish but never really matched the New England fall with your colder nights bringing the best out of the trees. What we need here is dryer days, colder nights and a little luck and maybe the fall won’t be as good as other years but we, at least, will still have one…

  3. This fall in Connecticut reminds me of the fall I spent in Oklahoma City, OK 14 years ago. The leaves all turned brown,no color at all…and one day I woke up and they (the leaves) all were on the ground after a small rain storm overnight! That year I missed my New England colors in the worst way!!!! This year here in Milford (I live on the beautiful Green) I’m feeling cheated! Maybe there is still a chance for Mother Nature to dress up in her finest array just one more time before the snow falls!!!! I am also hopeful, Geoff. Guess we’ll have to keep our sunnysides up and see what happens! ­čÖé

  4. The leaves on our trees have looked generally “beaten up” since Irene — we lost so many leaves. Haven’t examined them closely, but the fungus is an explanation.

  5. I am already back in Hawaii, but before I left Connecticut the second week in September, over 50% of the leaves were off the trees – especially the Maples – on my property.

  6. We were sitting on the patio this afternoon commenting on the same thing. Aside from one bare maple tree in the back yard, every other tree is still green. Maybe it is too early for good color, but there isn’t even a hint yet.

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