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Fall foliage experts predict ‘brighter and more concentrated colors’ this season thanks in part to a deluge of rain

Locals beware: leaf peepers are coming

Dave Epstein’s guide to leaf peeping this fall
WATCH: Meteorologist Dave Epstein shares the top locations for leaf peeping in New England and the right times to visit.

We’ve muddled through a soggy summer. But a beautiful reward may be waiting.

To the delight of nature lovers, experts are anticipating a great fall foliage season in New England after a summer of heavy rain mixed with stretches of bright sunny days.

“We’ve had rain that comes in storms followed by days of sunny weather, which is the kind of conditions that trees really like,” said Richard Primack, a biology professor at Boston University. “They do very well when there is an abundance of rainfall and sunny weather to dry out leaves and drain away.”

Just like Goldilocks, trees can be picky, thriving in temperatures that are “just right,” Primack said. If it’s too dry, leaves will change colors early and, fall to the ground. Too wet and they will suffer from fungi and insect attacks. A middle ground of moderate temperatures and plentiful rain, which this summer has featured, is perfect for exciting foliage season, he said.

He predicted “brighter and more concentrated colors” this fall, compared with last fall’s extended foliage season.


“Last year it was very spread out and never very strong in one period, which was partially because of how dry the summer was,” he said. “I predict a pretty dramatic display with all the leaves changing color at once.”

In his annual report, foliage expert Jim Salge predicted that the best places to see the changing leaves will likely be northern Maine as well as the Downeast and Acadia region. Southern New England “could have a good year as well,” he wrote.

Joshua Halman, a forest health program manager for Vermont’s department of forest, parks, and recreation, said the leaves are looking extremely healthy this year.

“Right now, all the trees look really good,” he said. “Healthy trees yield good fall foliage.”


Halman said it was a bit early to make exact predictions because it’s hard to account for sudden weather changes.

“If we start getting cooler nights and sunny days, we know foliage is going to start getting better and better,” he said.

Possible complications include frost, which typically occurs in late September or early October, arriving earlier than usual.

“It’s a hard thing to predict at this stage in the game, though,” he said.

For Matthew Hebert, owner of New England Excursions, any setback to the autumnal display could impact his business. All fall, Hebert’s company runs tours throughout New England focusing on fall foliage.

“There is a little bit of concern going year by year,” he said. “For the most part, even if we’re having a drought or lack of foliage, I’m very transparent with my guests that there can be some bare areas.”

When that happens, Hebert gives customers the option to rebook for the next year, free of charge. His company runs one tour a day for about 25 consecutive days. Each tour consists of about two dozen guests, all traveling through New Hampshire and Vermont to see the leaves.

Both Halman and Primack believe foliage will peak in late September and early October. That timetable would benefit Hebert, who this year added a few extra early tours for the last week of September. Both experts warned, however, that it can be hard to predict when leaves will reach their full splendor.

“There’s a lot of different kinds of trees and shrubs in the forest that respond differently,” Primack said. “It’s hard to make a precise prediction as to when things are going to happen in autumn, but there’s a lot of different species and some are going to give really nice color no matter what happens.”


Elllie Wolfe can be reached at Follow her @elliew0lfe.