Come early September, my mind, body and spirit are ready for fall. It's my favorite season, and I can't list enough reasons why I love these next few months so much.
It starts when apple cider hits the grocery shelves, and I get excited just thinking about the hayrides, pumpkin patches and apple orchards in my near future.
Then, those Pumpkin Spice Latte advertisements catch my eyes and ears from every billboard, radio segment or magazine ad within reach.
But what I like most about fall is its subtlety. All that I enjoy about the season greets me at several different moments within the coming weeks. And right about now, a crisp, gentle breeze surfaces out of thin air and begins to gradually guide summer's end into autumn's beginning.
So when I glanced out my office window this morning, expecting to see the usual green, leafy tree tops below, I was surprised to see a few spots of color here and there. Confused, I glanced at my calendar and wondered if time had fast-forwarded to October.
I love fall's colors, but why so early?
The answer: stress. The Davey Tree Expert Company Tech Advisor Greg Mazur says several stresses can cause trees to discolor and/or drop leaves as early as mid-August. From girdling roots, insects and diseases to extreme heat and drought, several threats face your trees throughout the year. But the right time to check for these issues that are causing your trees to change color early is now.
"This is a good time to inspect your trees," Mazur says. "We have one time of year to look for the signs of stress, and that time is now," since it is more difficult to notice stressed trees if inspections are completed too early in the summer or too late in fall. For example, signs of stress, or discolored leaves, can blend in with the usual fall coloration. Other signs of stress include thinned canopies, yellowed or browned leaves and fewer or undersized leaves. "You might see a stressed tree isolated among several other healthy trees here and there," Mazur explains.
And early discoloration can continue each year if the stress problem is not addressed. "For instance, if you do not remove the girdling roots from your trees, the problem might continue and then end in eventual death," Mazur says.
Certain tree species also can show stress more than others. "Sugar maples typically exhibit stress symptoms more easily than other species," Mazur explains. "Red maples, which are common in areas all over the U.S., often show similar effects as well."
Although a few trees out of several hundred might suffer leaf damage from stress, widespread fall coloration is not affected by weather patterns - it's driven by day length. "Different trees react to the environment in different ways," Mazur explains. Yet the intensity of fall color depends on rainfall, sunshine and cooler nights. Because daylight is consistent from year to year, fall's color show should still be on schedule this season.
Whether you're busy gathering apple cinnamon dessert recipes to prepare or planning a weekend trip to the corn maze, take a moment to check up on your trees before the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows begin to transform your entire yard into a mosaic of warm, gorgeous hues. With some careful attention, both you and your trees may enter the new season stress-free.