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Fall color show is underway

Published by Central Office September 18, 2018

Contact(s): Colleen Matula, forest silviculturist/ecologist, Ashland DNR Service Center, colleen.matula@wisconsin.gov, 715-685-2911

MADISON - Wisconsin's annual colorama is underway with some Northwoods locations reporting 5 to 15 percent color change but a few areas at nearly 25 to 50 percent peak color.

"The intensity of the fall color season is dependent on the weather that Wisconsin receives during September and October," said Colleen Matula, Forest Silviculturist/Ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-Division of Forestry. "To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool, but frost free, evenings are required."

These were the colors at the Brule River State Forest as of Sept. 13. - Photo credit: DNR
These were the colors at the Brule River State Forest as of Sept. 13.Photo credit: DNR

Peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October. Central Wisconsin peak color generally occurs during mid-October and in southern Wisconsin during the latter half of October.

"The heavy rainfall in southern Wisconsin could have some impact," Matula said. "Hardwood trees showing early color in lowland areas could be stressed from being in water too long. Additionally, the excess moisture may also increase fungal diseases and lead to early leaf drop."

Leaf pigments determine the range of the color palette. Chlorophyll, which begins to fade in the fall, gives leaves the basic green color and is necessary for photosynthesis. Carotenoids, which produce yellow, orange and brown colors, are always present so trees like aspen and birch have more predictable colors each year. Anthocyanin, which produces red and purple tints, varies with the conditions and makes each autumn unique for other species. Visit the DNR website for more information about fall colors.

"While the fall color show draws many visitors to our state, the 17.1 million forested acres in Wisconsin are also a year-round economic contributor with forest products adding $24.1 billion annually to state's economy," Matula noted.

As the showy fall colors move through the state from north to south, Wisconsin's state forests and parks offer a front row seat for the fall color show, Wisconsin DNR forestry experts say. Visit the DNR website at, dnr.wi.gov, and search "find a park" to find a place near you.

For current information on Wisconsin's current color status, contact the Department of Tourism's Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-432-TRIP or online at the Fall Color Report (exit DNR) on the Travel Wisconsin website.

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 18, 2018

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