By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
Although no one likes to see the summer season come to an end, it has done just that – at least officially. And the beauty of the Mountain State during autumn is not such a bad follow-up!
If you enjoy leaf peeping, you are fortunate to live in West Virginia where the change of seasons brings forth lots of brilliant color in fall. The problem may lie in deciding in which direction to travel to witness these spectacular hues that paint our foliage. Problem solved! Thanks to the West Virginia Division of Forestry and the Department of Commerce, officials will begin providing weekly fall foliage reports today!
These reports will be available through the agency’s website, www.wvforestry.com, its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/wvforestry, Twitter account, @wvforestry, and the Department of Commerce’s website, www.wvcommerce.org. Reports will be posted each Thursday afternoon through the end of October. Photos and updates, as available through the week, will be posted to the agency’s Facebook page. Fall foliage reports will include percentage of color, recommended driving routes and special points of interest you may want to take in along your journey.
Forestry officials also encourage leaf peepers to post their 2014 West Virginia fall foliage photos to the agency’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/wvforestry), or tweet them using #wvfallcolor. Photos will be featured on the Division’s Facebook page.
West Virginia is the third most forested state in the nation with 12 million acres of forestland. As the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, leaves stop producing chlorophyll, the chemical that colors them green. Once the production of chlorophyll stops, leaves take on their true colors, ranging from orange and yellow to red, purple and brown.
Leaves on trees at the highest elevations of the state begin to change color first, and, as fall progresses, color works its way down the mountains into the valleys. Since West Virginia is nearly 80% forested and has both mountains and valleys, watch the foliage forecast to help plan at least one colorful drive to take in the fall colors throughout the state, and perhaps stop along the way at some of the state parks.
See? There is an advantage to cooler nights and less daylight hours! Welcome autumn by planning an excursion to appreciate some of Mother Nature’s handiwork … but don’t wait too long! Peak seasons in West Virginia typically last only from late September to late October.