It’s one of the best reasons to live in New York: the burst of fall color. Take a tour with us on this page to follow John Kucko and his autumnal adventures.

Think you have some good color suggestions? Comment on John’s Facebook page, our Facebook, or on our Twitter.

Additionally, “I Love NY” — New York State’s official tourism site — puts together their fall guide, along with suggestions, tips for viewing, and other data.

Latest from I Love NY:

In the Finger Lakes, foliage will be 75% changed and peak this weekend in Elmira with bright yellows and greens, along with emerging shades of orange and red. Peak foliage will also arrive in Steuben County, according to spotters in CorningHammondsport, and Hornell, who predict 90% change and bright to brilliant fall colors. In Tioga County, spotters in Owego predict peak foliage this weekend with 75% transition and bright yellow and green leaves, along with some oranges and reds.

In Monroe County, spotters in the town of Greece note that foliage change is accelerating and that leaves will be near-peak this weekend, with 65% transition and an increasingly vivid blend of green, red, and yellow leaves, with less color change in areas closer to Lake Ontario. In Livingston County, Geneseo observers expect foliage will be near-peak with 70% change and a nice mix of bright golds and yellows. Most of Tompkins County will be near-peak, according to spotters in Ithaca, with varying shades of red, orange, and yellow, and some green in areas near to Cayuga Lake. Foliage should approach near-peak conditions in Yates County near Penn Yan, with 50% transition and average shades of yellow highlighted by pops of red and orange. Higher elevations of the county have significantly more changed foliage.

In Cayuga County, spotters in Auburn predict 50% change with red and yellow leaves of average brilliance, while Fair Haven should see 35-50% color transition, and average to bright gold, orange, and yellow leaves. Foliage is expected to be at midpoint of change in Cortland County around Downtown Cortland, with 50% change and average to bright seasonal shades. Onondaga County spotters reporting from Pratts Falls in Manilus and Syracuse predict midpoint to near-peak foliage this weekend as color change is accelerating, with 45% or more color change with bright autumnal hues.

In Ontario County, spotters between Naples and Victor predict midpoint to near-peak foliage this weekend with 60% color change and a bright mix of reds, yellows, greens, and oranges. Reporting from Marcus Whitman Middle School in Rushville predict 45% change and average to bright yellow and green leaves, along with some reds. In Schuyler County, spotters in Watkins GlenBurdett, and Rock Stream expect foliage to be at midpoint of change with more than 25% color transition, as trees are mostly green around Seneca Lake, but outlying areas are very bright and colorful. Foliage in Wayne County around Lyons will be at midpoint of change with 45% transition highlighted by average shades of orange and yellow, plus deep red.

Photo 1: Andover, NY (Allegany County), taken 9/16/22

Photo 2: Carpenter Falls/Niles, NY (Cayuga County), taken 9/18

Photo 3: Canadice, NY (Ontario County), taken 9/20/22

Photo 4:  Honeoye, NY (Ontario County), taken 9/20/22

Photo 5: Watkins Glen (Schuyler County) taken 9/22/2022

Photo 6: Honeyoye (Ontario County) taken 9/26/2022

Photo 7: Salmon River Falls (Oswego County) taken 9/27/2022

Photo 8: Dayton’s Corners Schoolhouse, built in 1857 (Penfield), taken 9/28/2022

Video update 1: Maplewood Park, recorded 9/29/2022

Photo 9: Maplewood Park (Rochester), taken 9/29/2022

Snitil Snap 1: Charlotte (Monroe County), taken 10/4/2022

Nat Cam 1: Park Ave., Rochester, taken 10/5/2022

Live Broadcast No. 1, Robert H. Treman State Park/Enfield, NY, 10/7/2022

Photo 10: Taughannock Falls (Trumansburg), taken 10/7/202

Photo 11: Letchworth State Park, taken 10/8/2022

Photo 12: Nunda, NY, taken 10/8/2022

Photo 13: Andover, NY, taken 10/9/2022

Photo 14: Stony Brook State Park (Dansville), taken 10/9/2022

Photo 15: Swain, NY, taken 10/9/2022

Photo 16: Erie Canal, Fairport, taken 10/11/2022

Photo 17: Devil’s Bathtub, Mendon Ponds Park, taken 10/13/2022

Photo 18: Taughannock Falls (Trumansburg, NY), peak conditions, taken 10/15/2022

Photo 19: Mt. Hope Cemetary, taken 10/18/2022

Photo 20: Mt. Hope Cemetary, taken 10/18/2022

Photo 21: Heritage Square Museum, Ontario, NY, taken 10/19/2022

Photo 22: Bristol Historical Society, taken 10/20/202

Photo 23: Genesee River across from Maplewood Park, taken 10/23/2022

Photo 24: Corbett’s Glen, Brighton, taken 10/26/2022

Why do leaves change in the fall?

Have you ever wondered how, or why the leaves on the trees start to change from green to all sorts of colors in the fall? And why do we call it “Fall Foliage”?

“Foliage” is just a fancy term meaning plant, or leaves from a tree. We refer to the term “Fall Foliage” when referencing the changing of the leaves on the trees. Why does this happen?

It all comes down to the changing of the seasons, and the amount of sunlight we receive throughout the year. Weather also plays a pivotal role in how much the leaves change and how vibrant they become from year to year.

During the summer, our length of daylight increases and the temperatures are the warmest, which signals to the leaves that it’s time to start making food again after a long winter.

Once fall comes around, the days get shorter and the temperatures get cooler, which signals to the leaves to stop their food-making process. This results in the gradual breakdown of a pigment called chlorophyll that’s found in plants that gives them that lush, green color. Chlorophyll gives plants their green color because it does not absorb the green wavelengths of light. Since this color is not absorbed, it’s reflected off the leaves, and that’s the color we see!

Mini Chemistry Lesson Below

The color change we see ultimately occurs due to the chemical processes that happen when less chlorophyll is produced by the leaves, causing their colors to change in appearance as the sunlight reflects off of them. When chlorophyll breaks down, the leaves begin to absorb more green wavelengths of light, and reflect other colors such as brown, red, yellow, orange, and even purple.

To jog your memory, chlorophyll is essentially a molecule in plants that absorbs sunlight and uses that energy to make food in a process you’re most likely familiar with: photosynthesis!

Chlorophyll is located within a plant’s chloroplast, which is where photosynthesis takes place, and photosynthesis is the process plants go through to turn sunlight and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose (sugar). See the photo below:   

All in all, the resulting colors of the leaves come from the different amounts of chlorophyll that the leaves are producing, which becomes significantly less the closer we get to winter. 

Fun Fact: Without the presence of chlorophyll in plants, the leaves would always have yellow, red, and orange colors to them!

Besides the weather and seasons, other factors that affect fall foliage include location and latitude, elevation, and differences in tree species. Other facts about the colors of leaves include: 

  • Temperature and moisture have the most influence over the brilliance of the colors
  • Certain trees will change color faster than others 
  • Early season frosts can bring the beautiful colors to an end 
  • The combination of warm, sunny days and cool (not freezing) nights will give leaves their best looking display 

During warm, sunny days the leaves are as active as they can be producing lots of sugars, and once the cooler nights fall it causes these sugars to become trapped as the veins trap them shut. This produces an abundance of anthocyanin, a chemical that produces colors like red and purple.

  • Carotenoids are a common chemical found in leaves that give them yellow colors frequently throughout the year
  • Having a late spring or summer drought can delay the offset of the colors by a few weeks while a warm, rainy summer will produce the most favorable conditions

For more about the science of fall leaves click HERE

Photo courtesy: smokeymountains.com