Ecologist predicts vibrant fall display
By Caitlin Herrington
While Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc on trees in the Upstate and western North Carolina last year, forcing leaves to fall ahead of their annual display, Hurricane Florence doesn’t seem to have impacted the region as harshly.
Clemson University Forest Ecologist Don Hagan, who has been predicting fall foliage for six years, headed up to Devil’s Courthouse in the Pisgah National Forest last week to assess the damage.
“We didn’t see the direct impacts here along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway like we could have seen,” Hagan Said.
“Had we seen a little bit more wind and a little bit more rain, we could have seen leaves getting knocked off before they ever had a chance to turn – and we just fortunately didn’t see that this year.”
While Irma hit after a summer of drought, above-average rainfall and warm temperatures allowed the leaves to hang on through Florence’s winds, Hagan said. The extended heat might delay the display into mid-Ocotber, he said, but it’s always best to start looking early since autumn colors gradually change then seemingly disappear in the blink of an eye.