Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fall Foliage Report – October 5, 2023
“In the entire circle of the year there are no days so delightful as those of a fine October.”
Fall days are here – blue skies, clouds like giant marshmallows, and gobs of sunshine. The only thing missing is the cooler daytime temperatures characteristic of fall weather. Crisp autumn air causes leaves to stop making food or stop the process of photosynthesis, which turns the leaves green during warmer months. When the temperature drops, chlorophyll breaks down and the green color begins to disappear, revealing yellows, oranges and in some tree species, purple tones. Although daytime temperatures across the state have been in the 80s this week, nighttime temperatures are dipping into the low 50s and 60s, giving us the cooler conditions necessary for leaf change. Next week, temperatures drop across Maryland, setting the stage for fall’s colorful show.
The western region of our state is taking the lead in gorgeous fall color. Forester Dakota Durcho reports near peak conditions in some tree species: “The trees we typically see change early – black walnut, black gum, and sassafras – have mostly changed at this point. However, most of the other dominant hardwoods in the area such as yellow poplar, hickory, and oak are just now starting to change, some of which can be attributed to dry conditions.”
Mark Spurrier, State Park Ranger Manager, Cunningham Falls and Gambrill State Parks captured a photo of a hickory in Frederick County beginning its transition to gold and amber hues: “The process is just really starting this week, but we suspect it will begin to accelerate with cooler temperatures ahead. Colors are definitely muted this year.”
Melissa Nash, Forester in Garrett and Allegany counties, reports from Grantsville this week where the ridgetops are nearing the midpoint with a good bit of color beginning to mix with the green. Cooler temperatures and rain in the forecast bodes well for fall color in western Maryland: “The colder weather and a little moisture expected to begin this weekend and into next week should prime everything for the main color show in mid-October.”
“Still mostly green, with a few pops of color – yellows appearing in the poplars and walnut and reds in the dogwood and oak canopies,” reports Dave Gigliotti, Administrative Specialist, Rocks State Park. Peak color change is still a few weeks away in this region of Maryland, but Gigliotti says visitors will enjoy the sights and sounds of the fall bird migration, which includes the first appearance of a rose-breasted grosbeak this season, “They pass through for a few days every spring and fall. There is also a very nice warbler migration, especially through Susquehanna.”
With their ruby reds and fiery oranges, maples top the list of favorites among fall leaf peepers. Shin Ae Gonzalez, Seasonal Ranger with Fair Hill Natural Resources Management Area and Bohemia River State Park is a fan: “Our maples are turning; the colors are just amazing!” Gonzalez has noticed other signs of fall leaf change as well. “Black gum in Fair Hill are starting to turn and sycamores are becoming yellow and dropping leaves quickly.”
American beech, sweetgum, red maple, and scarlet oak are just beginning to turn in Southern Maryland, but the region remains mostly a vibrant green. Chase Kolstrom, Project Forester, hopes a change in the weather brings more fall color to the treetops: “I don’t expect to see any major changes this week. Fall weather is supposedly coming soon, so we may see more change next week.”
Photos Sent in by Our Readers
We welcome all of Maryland’s outdoor enthusiasts to send in photos capturing the beauty of the fall season. Please use the online submission form to send your entries directly to us. Your photo might be selected to appear in a future edition of the Fall Foliage Report!
Fall Recreation Spotlight
Governor Wes Moore and the Maryland Department of Agriculture encourage residents and visitors alike to “Take a Bite out of Maryland” this year by visiting one of our state’s apple orchards. Maryland is home to 26 orchards located in eight counties across the state, offering pick-your-own experiences and other agri-tourism activities for the entire family. After you’ve worked up an appetite at the orchard, stop by one of our famous farm stands to shop for locally grown produce and baked treats like apple pie. Snap a picture of your apple of choice and submit the photo online via Facebook, Instagram, or X. Just tag @mdsbest with hashtag #MarylandAppleMonth or email your photo to email@example.com and local Frederick artist, Goodloe Byron, will turn your “bite” into a work of art!
Watch the Sky
Night owls might want to take their activities outside on October 8. That’s when the Draconid meteor shower will occur, with peak viewing conditions in the evening and early morning hours of October 9. According to EarthSky, “the Draconid shower – also called the Giacobinids – is a real oddity, in that its radiant point stands highest in the sky as darkness falls.” In rare instances, this celestial shower can contain many hundreds of meteors in a single hour. That possibility will keep many skywatchers – and night owls – outside for the duration.
The western region of our state, typically the first to see peak fall foliage conditions is beginning to see the seasonal transition come to life. Flowering dogwoods all around the area are just about at their peak, albeit a little duller this year. We’re optimistic about the impact recent rainfall will have on fall foliage, hopefully it has been enough to help improve color conditions for the remainder of the season.
Although most of the landscape is still mostly green in the central and northern region of our state, the area is ripe with edible fruits and mushrooms thanks to the abundance of rain this week. A few trees, such as dogwood, maple, and walnut are starting to show small patches of color here and there, but more interesting right now is the appearance of edibles like paw-paw fruit, which tastes like mango/banana, and Chicken of the Woods mushrooms. When gathering edibles, proceed with caution, make sure your not alergic and be sure to positively identify any wild mushrooms before consuming.
In La Plata in Charles County, the tree canopies are mostly green with pops of red, orange and gold appearing in sweetgum, white oak, and red maple. Subtle changes are giving us a glimpse of what’s to come.
The eastern region is still mostly green, there are hints of color. Farm fields are getting harvested and there are plenty of roadside stands selling fall produce.
Stargazers in Maryland will enjoy a Full Moon, also known as a Harvest Moon in the Northern Hemisphere, on Friday, September 29. The moon will be fully illuminated at 5:58 a.m. prior to moonset at 8:21 a.m. EST. According to NASA, this upcoming supermoon will be 224,854 miles from Earth and appear about 5% bigger and 13% brighter than the average full moon in 2023. This is the last supermoon of 2023, but unfortunately the weather forecast looks less than ideal for viewing.
Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration at Seneca Creek State Park takes place October 1 from noon to 4 p.m. The annual event features fun for the whole family — live music, games and prizes, and opportunities to connect with local educational and environmental organizations that work with the Latino and Hispanic communities. Admission to the event is free; a nominal park entry fee applies.