Explore, Experience and Enjoy the Beautiful Smith River in Southern Virginia

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Goodbye October

“O hushed October morning mild, Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild, Should waste them all.”
-Robert Frost

Beautiful yet fleeting seems to be what Frost wanted us to remember about fall. This week fall is showing its peak colors in the foothills. Soon the winter winds will bring the brilliant display to an end as our lawns, decks and driveways pile high with the cast off leaves. Take advantage of the mild weather now and enjoy the brief but brilliant color show that is late October in Southern Virginia.

Fall colors continue unfolding across our region but this past week has seen the colors and variety peak in a color explosion. Everywhere you look another beautiful tree can be found just driving through our county, but the mild weather begs us to the trail and the river to experience the colors and peace that prevails in the Autumn woods.

We are fortunate to live in a part of the world where Nature has one last fling before the dormant sleep of winter takes hold. The days grow shorter and bring crisp temperatures as the deep greens of summer foliage are transformed into the vivid autumn palette.

Three factors are known to dictate autumn color: length of night, weather and leaf pigments. The primary factor inducing leaf color change is regulated by the calendar. The increasing length of the night is the plants first signal to begin the process of “winterizing” for the coming cold months.

The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop in any particular autumn season are related to weather conditions that occur before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling. Temperature and moisture are the main influences here.


Warm, sunny days and cool, crisp nights seems to bring out the most spectacular color displays. During the day, leaves produce sugars and the cool nights cause the leaf veins to close holding the sugars in. Sugars and light spur production of the brilliant pigments, by way of anthocyanins and carotenoids producing reds, purples, crimson and golden yellows.

Here a brief list of colors and associated trees
Ash: yellow, maroon
Beech: yellow to orange
Dogwood: scarlet to purple
Hickory: golden bronze
Oak: red, browns or russet
Poplar: golden yellow
Maples: brilliant scarlet to bright golds
Sourwood: deep red
Sweet Gum: golden yellow
Sassafras: bright yellow


Where can I go to see autumn color in Southern Virginia? 

You can find autumn color anywhere you find hardwood trees from parks and forest throughout our region, cemeteries, even in our towns as we have an abundance of “sidewalk trees” within our city limits. Your own neighborhood may be one of the best places if you have that favorite maple or dogwood that you always watch for the change.

Although many flock to the Blueridge Parkway for leaf viewing, and rightly so, you can find spectacular color right here in Henry County. Just about any where along a river or lake can provide delightful vistas. Philpott Lake overlook is a favorite spot close to home as well as Beaver Creek Reservoir with its variety of hardwoods surrounding the lake.

I like our local trails as for color watching as you can go often and really do not even need to plan a special trip to visit. are both highlighted in reds and golds but any trail in our region from Fairystone to Philpott, Fieldale to Gravely Nature Preserve. Enjoy it the colors of late October…for as they say, “This is a limited time only offering”



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