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Fall brings its vibrant colors to New England, despite drought

A forest of trees in Ossipee, New.H. showed a burst of color last week.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

A summer of drought could mean some slightly duller foliage this autumn, but bright spots of color are still popping up around New England.

Ideal foliage appears when trees have had sufficient precipitation during the spring and summer. That didn’t happen this year, meteorologist Dave Epstein told Boston.com. Still, leaf peepers will have plenty to see.

“2020 has disappointed us and thrown us some surprises,” he said. “But the leaves will still change color.”

The reason for drought’s impact on foliage is not well understood, but it has to do with the trees’ metabolic response to stress from lack of water, according to Climate Central.


The annual festival of colors is well underway in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine, where increasingly shorter days have led trees to halt production of chlorophyll in their leaves.

In Massachusetts, peak foliage was evident in Berkshire County last week and expected to be showing in Pioneer Valley and Worcester County by Monday, according to the state’s office of travel and tourism site.

Fall foliage in Lincoln, New Hampshire
See the changing fall colors in Lincoln, New Hampshire. (Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe)

Full color should hit the Boston area by Oct. 15 and end sometime around Oct. 21, though some color could continue to appear along areas of the Cape until the end of the month. The site lists several scenic routes around the state, from the Mohawk Trail in Western Massachusetts to Route 6A along the Cape, that offer colorful views.

New Hampshire’s state-run foliage tracker indicates that most areas will hit peak color by mid-October, and be past peak in the Great North Woods and other northern areas of the state by then.

Vermont’s “Leaf Squad” reported Thursday that many areas of the state were in near-peak conditions. The site recommends traveling Route 100, because the elevation changes offer a wide variety of colors.

Furthest north, Maine began collecting reports of “spotty color change” as early as Sept. 16. The latest report, published Wednesday, showed that most of the state was at peak color, while waning in most of northwestern Maine.