What’s behind the lack of color in autumn foliage across parts of Northeast?

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer
October 25, 2018, 9:39:42 AM EDT

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Fall colors are visible on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Fall colors are visible on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Fall colors are visible on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on campus at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors at Palmer Square in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Fall colors are dull but visible on Mountain View Road in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018. (AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Fall colors are dull but visible on Mountain View Road in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Fall foliage on Cherry Hill Road in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.

(AccuWeather/Amanda Schmidt)

Some trees show fall colors on Cherry Hill Road in Princeton, New Jersey, on Wednesday, Oct 24, 2018.


Vibrant autumn foliage in the eastern United States draws in leaf peepers from near and far.

The northernmost part of the Northeast, from the uppermost Great Lakes states to the Adirondacks to northern New England, has had fairly good fall color this year.

However, there is a lack of color in areas farther south such as southern New York, southern New England and the mid-Atlantic, according to Dr. Marc Abrams, professor of ecosystem science and management at Penn State University.

New York Fall Foliage 10-2018

Trees are seen in their early stages of foliage as a man walks with a dog at City Pier on the Canandaigua Lake waterfront, Monday, Oct. 8, 2018, in Canandaigua, N.Y. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


This region was affected by a very wet summer and fall, and it also experienced unseasonably high temperatures extending into mid-October, which contributed to the dull fall colors.

“It seems like it has disrupted the normal coloration process,” Abrams said. “Even though the temperatures are now conducive to fall colors, a lot of the trees are just not producing it.”

The warm and wet weather extended the growing season and kept the leaves in a green condition. As a result, the normal breakdown of the green pigment called chlorophyll is not happening this year.

The abundant rainfall caused leaf fungus in many trees, which also resulted in diminished colors.

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The region is starting to experience frost at night. When the frost hits the green leaves, the leaves will usually go straight from green to brown.

“It's almost like a perfect storm of conditions that led to pretty bad color this year,” Abrams said.

While there are still some trees that exhibit vibrant fall colors, many trees are still green or have dull colors.

“There are some trees coming out of this weekend with fairly decent colors, but they are definitely in the minority,” Abrams said on Tuesday, Oct. 23.


Certain species of tree are better at producing fall colors. Therefore, some species will still exhibit beautiful fall foliage.

For example, sugar maple and red maple normally produce the best color because they're fairly abundant trees.

“We have a lot of [sugar maple and red maple trees], and some of them are coming through now [in the Northeast], but many are not showing good color. I'm not saying it's impossible to find some good color out there, but it's not like a normal year,” Abrams said.

Abrams projects that there will be a delayed leaf fall, particularly in the oak species because they are still very much in a green condition. While oak tree leaves have typically fallen by the end of October, it will be well into November before most leaves are off the trees.

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