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Foliage Report | Perfect Weather for Strong Foliage in New England

Posted Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Foliage Report | Perfect Weather for Strong Foliage in New England
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Perfect — it’s the only way to describe the weather for the past two weeks, especially for producing great foliage colors!

The nights have been clear and cool, and the days mild and bright.  Sunshine has been abundant, and rainfall limited.  In fact, the only rain we’ve seen has been alongside cold fronts that reinforce the cool, pleasant weather with their passing. They’re textbook foliage-forming conditions.

The leaves around New England have responded incredibly well, and colors have come on strong in many areas and certain environments.  Spotters are reporting that the color is coming on quickly, suddenly, as if overnight.  Nowhere in New England is at peak yet, but by this weekend, if this pattern continues, there will certainly be peak color to be found.

Generally, the color in New England moves from north to south, and from higher elevations to lower elevations.  That’s the overall trend this year as well, as the strongest widespread color is currently in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, and far northern portions of New Hampshire, such as Pittsburg and Colebrook.  These areas should be near, or at peak this weekend, which works out to be either on time, or perhaps even a couple days ahead of normal.

Northern Areas Are Rapidly Reaching Peak - From Milan Hill, NH
Photo/Art by Jim Salge
Northern Areas Are Rapidly Reaching Peak – From Milan Hill, NH

Color is also coming in very nicely at elevation in the Mountains of Western Maine, the western and Northern White Mountains, and the Northern Green Mountains.  This includes areas like Millinocket and Rangeley, Maine, Littleton or Lincoln, New Hampshire and Stowe, Vermont.  This might be considered a couple days ahead of schedule as well, and few more cool nights will only accelerate that trend.

I wouldn’t expect to see many mountain areas at absolute peak this weekend, but there’ll be plenty of glorious high color, perhaps peaking early next week if the weather holds.  The exception may be some of the higher elevation valleys in the mountains, like the Zealand area of the White Mountains, which I can’t recommend visiting highly enough!

Moving southward and towards the coast, the widespread color is generally low, but we are seeing an absolutely spectacular show from the swamp maples this year, in lowlands from the Maine Coast all the way down to Connecticut.  I can’t remember a show this strong and this widespread from the wetland red maples.  On one of my drives this past week, from Rochester, New Hampshire, to Sanford, Maine, where wetlands abound, nearly the entire route was already ablaze in crimson red.

Swamp Maples Are Putting On An Exceptional Show This Year
Photo/Art by Ann Dinsmore
Swamp Maples Are Putting On An Exceptional Show This Year

The best explanation that I’ve heard and can surmise for the widespread intensity of red swamp maples this year is the abundance of summer rainfall.  The wetlands stayed wet, and their extent ranged far greater than in normal years.  This may have led to a higher percentage of the red maples in the forest acting like swamp maples, and adding to the show.

Now that it’s here, how long will it last?

The answer to that depends on the weather forecast, as well as the diversity of the trees in the forest, but there’s plenty of time to catch the show!  In the far north, where the colors are peaking now, the forest has fewer deciduous species in the mix and the intense shades may last only an additional week or two, barring a strong wind or rain event.  Afterwards, the golden beech trees will hold the only color.

The mountains will hold onto their color longer, mainly because of the diversity of both species and terrain.  Good color will last in parts of the mountains likely through Columbus Day weekend, before moving down the slopes and from west to east.

In the coastal plain and Southern New England states the red swamp maples will hold their color for a while, allowing the widespread color in the surrounding forests to catch up. Upland and sugar maples will turn first, likely peaking a bit early from historical averages over the next few weeks.  Oaks, which peak later and make up a large portion of the forest here, may lead to a bit of a double peak this year.

Mixed Forests In Southern New England Ensure A Long Season
Photo/Art by Jim Salge
Mixed Forests In Southern New England Ensure A Long Season

One last not: we have to continue to mention that the wet summer has not had all positive effects, as a leaf fungus called anthracnose is causing premature browning in some areas this year. It is not widespread, but definitely noticeable in certain areas.  This may leave a few New England icons in less than ideal shape, but the majority of the region should still put on a great show.

With conditions changing so quickly, we at have provided tools to keep up.  We have a user driven foliage map, where you can submit reports as you travel around the region.

We also have a Facebook page where we’re posting updates from viewers and regional businesses around New England.

Lastly, when on the go, we have a foliage app that gives you the latest information on your smart phone.

Hope you all get out and enjoy what will be a great show this weekend! Don’t forget to check back next Thursday morning for the latest weekly foliage report!

Jim Salge


Jim Salge


As a former meteorologist at the Mount Washington Observatory, foliage reporter Jim Salge is a keen observer of the progression of the seasons in New England. He uses his knowledge of weather, geography and climate to pinpoint the best time to visit various New England locations to find the best light, atmosphere, and most importantly, color.
Updated Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

One Response to Foliage Report | Perfect Weather for Strong Foliage in New England

  1. c smith October 1, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    I have been told peak color is now in parts of Gloucester, Wenham area.

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