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Fall foliage on hold

Haphazardly searching for fall foliage in the North Carolina mountains could be frustrating.
Many mountain sides are covered with green and brown leaves — not the vibrant yellows, oranges and reds that leaf-lookers typically thrive and drive to see.
“I haven’t seen a lot of color just yet,” said Kevin Starr, county Extension director.
Starr recently took a trip to the Virginia mountains and noticed the lack of colorful leaves. Trees planted especially for landscaping are displaying some brightly colored leaves, but other trees simply aren’t changing color.
Starr explains the complex process of photosynthesis and leaves’ colors.
“With the rain you’re not getting as much sun. With less sun the leaves make less sugars which produce less pigment,” she said.
But the end result is apparent. The colorful leaves aren’t in full affect just yet.
Beth Anne Atkins, director of public relations with the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, remains optimistic, and patient.
“What we’re seeing this year is the colors are starting to emerge,” she said. “Right now the higher elevations are the ones that are changing. It’s slowly starting to drift down the mountains.”
Atkins said the wet, warm weather has only delayed the inevitable. Leaves will change eventually.
“Normally the peek is this weekend and next weekend, but what we’re probably looking at is the last of October and towards November.”
Starr said favorable weather would be sunny days and cool nights.
“If you don’t get just the right conditions you’re not going to have the prime colors,” he said.
A frost is expected in the mountains this weekend, and that should jump-start the change, Atkins said.
The mountain regions of North Carolina depend on revenues from tourists. Atkins said it is soon to tell if businesses have been adversely effected by the lack of colorful leaves. She said people are still flocking to the mountains.
“The Grove Park Inn has had lots of people,” she said. “Hopefully that’s a good indication about what the rest of the area is experiencing.”
Numbers from area businesses won’t be available until next month. Atkins said she hopes people are still coming to the mountains, and business owners and tourists continue to reap the rewards.
The N.C. Department of Tourism aims to keep leaf lookers informed of the leaves changing on each mountain peak.
A “leaf update” is available on the department’s Web site for anyone who wants to pinpoint the best points of observation. Go to www.nccommerce.com/tourism for more information.by Diane Turbyfill

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