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Ongoing drought could make Connecticut's fall foliage less vibrant this year

If you're driving along the highways in Connecticut, you might have already noticed some trees, like birches, changing color.

Trees change color when their leaves stop receiving water and stop producing chlorophyll. That's part of what gives leaves the yellow, reds and oranges of fall.

When colder weather arrives and the days grow shorter, trees usually shut down the water on their own.

But in a drought, like this year, some trees start this process early. And some of the first trees to be impacted are those in low soils, like the trees lining the ledges of highways across the state.

Chris Martin, director of forestry at the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, said this will impact the timing of when leaves change color. "The good news is there's more opportunities to get out and see the colors, especially like mid-to-late September," he said.

"The bad news is you don't get to see it all at once, so it's not quite as in-your-face, with all the trees turning color at one time," Martin said.

Another factor influencing fall colors is temperature. That's because trees need cold weather at night for the best fall foliage.

Martin said overnight lows need to be in the upper 30s in late September to "really kick things in gear" and get us "really rolling into the colors."

So if we have a warm fall along with a summer of drought, the foliage might just be a flop.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
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