Leaves already changing colors in Colorado; Here’s why

Leaves in transition. Photo Credit: jl_2 (Flickr)

If you’ve been on a hike through one of Colorado’s many aspen groves this month, you probably noticed that things weren’t quite as green as normal. While a majority of the trees are hanging on to their lime green hue, some leaves are already switching to their striking gold, and even more surprising, some of those gold leaves have already fallen. This may indicate an early and more brief season for Colorado’s iconic fall aspens. Consider this while making fall plans.

The peak viewing time for Aspens in Colorado typically starts mid-September in the northern part of the state, slowly working it’s way toward an October 16 peak viewing time in southern spots like Pagosa Springs. However, climate and moisture have been known to impact when leaves change.

This year, the culprit of the early change is likely drought. Lack of moisture has been known to result in leaves changing early due to something called “drought stress.” As of August 17, “extreme” drought is present in roughly half of Colorado, with the rest of the state (except the northeast corner) experiencing lower than normal moisture. It’s no surprise the effects of this drought are being seen in the flora.

Another factor that may by impacting the color of Colorado’s leaves could be the unusually cold weather system that’s moving through the state, particularly Northern Colorado. Some spots, like Arapahoe Basin, have even reported their first snow of the season. Things like cold weather, snow, and hail can cause leaves to change quickly, as well as bring them to the ground.

We’ll keep monitoring the status of changing leaves, but for now, be ready to save-the-date for an earlier-than-normal fall adventure.



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