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North Georgia Fall Leaf Report – October 17

NORTHEAST:

Cooler temps and some scattered showers have brought some relief, but fall leaf change is still moving slowly. Overall, canopies are still shades of green with pinpoints of color across ridges and slopes. Roadside color is becoming more common as the sourwoods have started to become the main attraction with pinks, reds and burgundies. The maples, blackgum, dogwood and sumac continue to provide reds along our roads. Also, the yellow poplar, birch, and this week the occasional hickory, are showing yellows.

We do continue to see development of drought-damaged patches along or around rocky ridges, rock faces or slopes with shallow soils. These will be obvious as you travel around GA this fall.

SPECIES SPECIFICS:

Dogwood – continuing to see some dusty reds and burgundies, but still early

Birch – early yellows fading, but more change to come

Yellow-poplar – much of the early turning leaves have dropped and the remaining green leaves are on hold with color; Still change to come.

Sourwood – continues to show the most increase in change this week with many roadside trees running pink to deep burgundy and some bright reds. Still plenty yet to join in.

Sumac – additional change showing this week along roadsides.

Maple – Continues to show signs of transition with some individual trees and some groups in full color. Currently deep to dusty reds but some yellows and oranges should be developing later this fall.

Blackgum – Along with the sourwoods, blackgum continues to have some of the best reds at the moment.

Sassafras – Continuing to see yellows and orange in the understory

Sweetgum- starting to see some sweetgum changing showing yellows, though currently a minor compontent. Hoping for further development with yellows and purples.

Hickory – Starting to see some change in the hickories with occasional yellows and golds.

Percentage of color change from green to date:  Unchanged from last week. 

Highest elevations, 5%-10%. Below 3500 feet, still less than 5%

Much of north GA remains in extreme to severe drought. Though some areas have seen some shower activity this past week, it will take multiple rain systems to break the drought.

Given the extremely dry weather we continue to urge the public to be extremely careful if using equipment, grills, cookers and any other items capable of creating sparks in the outdoors.  And, contact the GA Forestry Commission for a burn permit before attempting any outdoor burning.

SCENIC NE GA DRIVE: Upper elevations showing more color, but still a week or more from serious change. Drought damage continues to be evident as you travel the mountains.

GA 348 (Richard Russell Scenic Highway) in White and Union Counties as well as GA 180 running from Suches to Vogel State Park and then also GA 180 from Vogel to Jack’s Gap and then GA 180 Spur to Brasstown Bald will provide the best opportunities this week.

Options at lower elevations include US 76 between Clayton and Hiawassee and GA 52 between Ellijay and Chatsworth. Just keep in mind that while bursts of color are possible around any turn, the greens still rule this week.

New this week is some roadside color development in some additional lower elevations including the GA Power lakes… Burton, Seed and Rabun. GA 197 from Clarkesville to US 76 or turn off GA 197 on to Seed Lake Road.

NORTHWEST:

The effects of drought have become more apparent as temperatures drop. Overlooks and ridges are fading from green to light green with large areas of brown particularly towards ridge tops with less water retention. Along river corridors, creeks, and bottoms with higher water retention, vibrant colors are becoming more apparent.  Sycamore, poplar, and hickory are showing shades of yellow and brown while red maples are gradually shifting from green to red. Blackgum in the higher elevations are gradually shifting to red.  Dogwoods are showing shades of pink and yellow.  Hickory and oak have continued to turn brown and drop leaves. The forecast shows lower temperatures with scattered rain showers which should encourage vibrant color shifts throughout the next week.

SCENIC NW GA DRIVE: Take Hwy 136 to the top of Lookout Mountain from I-75. Turn right onto Hwy 189 (or continue on 136 and turn right to go to Cloudland Canyon). Follow Hwy 189 to Sunset Rock, Point Park, or Rock City. Drop down into Chattanooga and take Hwy 193 back to Hwy 136.

NORTHEAST:

After an onslaught of record setting high temperatures, we are finally getting some relief with highs this week in the mountains in the 70’s! And, we have had and hopefully will see some scattered shower activity across north Georgia in the next week. While these shower opportunities are welcomed, the drought that has been tightening its grip on GA continues to make itself known. Over the last week we have seen new pockets of trees browning up and pockets of brown topped trees that were already evident have increased in size. Most of these are located on and around rocky knobs and mountain tops, along rocky ridges or on slopes with rock outcrops or shallow underlying rock. These also more commonly occur on the south and west facing slopes as these slopes receive the most direct sunlight thus greater drying.  We are likely to see these impacts continue to develop until we get a significant break in the drought situation.  

In spite of such, we are seeing signs that fall is underway and colors continue to develop.  Green continues to dominate the north GA canopies and this week new color development seems slowed.  Even so, when you look closely you do see the telltale signs that changes are happening.

The yellow poplar provided some of the first color this season as is usual but now many of the early turning leaves have dropped leaving some trees with very thin canopy and some with green, unchanged leaves holding.  The effect is that some of our yellow component is lessened this week and in some places giving the impression we “got greener”.  However, the birch, while fading some, are still providing splashes of yellow on roadsides as well as some yellow poplar.  The biggest gain of the week is that the sourwoods have become a little more pronounced and they are starting to make themselves known more along roadsides.  Dogwoods continue to show some earthy reds but many are showing signs of stress.  And the other players from last week, the blackgum and sumac with their reds and the sassafras with yellows, reds and orange continue to hold color.

SPECIES DETAILS:

Yellow-poplar – much of the early turning leaves have dropped and the remaining green leaves are on hold with color so this week some lessening of the impact the yellow poplar was providing. Still change to come.

Sourwood – showing the most increase in change this week with many roadside trees running pink to deep burgundy and some bright reds. Still plenty yet to join in.

Sumac – holding some early bright reds

Maple – Continues to show signs of transition with some individual trees and some groups in full color. Currently deep to dusty reds but some yellows and oranges hopefully will be also developing later this fall.

Blackgum – Along with the sourwoods, blackgum continues to have some of the best reds at the moment.

Sassafras – Continuing to see yellows and orange in the understory.

Sweetgum- starting to see some sweetgum changing showing yellows, though currently a minor component.  Hopefully we will see further development with yellows and purples.

Percentage of color change from green to date:  Highest elevations 5%-10%. 

Below 3500 feet still less than 5%.

Is a good season expected?  Why?  What will be peak season this year?

New color development hit pause this week and this sometimes happens.  But given the unchartered ground we have been in with the record temps in September, we will see if this is a drought/temperature inflicted ailment or simply Mother Nature taking a deep breath before cranking things up.  The good news right now is that other than the pockets of trees in the drought damaged pockets related to shallow soil and underlying rock, many of the trees seem to be fairing okay.

Describe any impact of rain, wind, drought or frost on leaf color this week and/or this season in general?

Last week, much of north GA was listed being in either Extreme Drought or Severe Drought with a few counties listed as Moderate Drought or Abnormally Dry. Though some areas have seen some shower activity this past week, it takes time for drought to develop and time and multiple rain systems to break a drought. 

Given the extremely dry weather we continue to urge the public to be extremely careful if using equipment, grills, cookers and any other items capable of creating sparks in the outdoors.  And, to contact the GA Forestry Commission for a burn permit and up to date information on the weather and burning conditions including whether we are issuing permits on a given day before attempting any outdoor burning.  And, if burning please stay with your burn and have sufficient personnel, tools and if possible water on site to help insure your burn does not escape.

The first little run of change may have just been a tease as this week things have slowed. This year’s early change in a few trees that, year after year are the first to turn, got us excited when they were in full color change on September 10, much earlier than normal.  The next few weeks will determine whether they hold true this year or whether they have pranked us! Upper elevations showing potential but could still be two weeks or so away from peak. Mid and lower elevations usually a week or so behind the upper elevation trees. Drought damage is evident as you travel the mountains. Specifically, you can see this damage on iconic Yonah Mountain outside of Cleveland, along the south slopes of Horse Range Mountain north of 75 Alt in White County and east of Hiawassee and just west of Dick’s Creek Gap on the north side of US 76.

Scenic drives: While not the prime week to go just for the leaves, if you find yourself in North GA and would like to see what is happening, the upper elevations continue to be the best bet.  GA 348 (Richard Russell Scenic Highway) in White and Union Counties as well as GA 180 running from Suches to Vogel State Park and then also GA 180 from Vogel to Jack’s Gap and then GA 180 Spur to Brasstown Bald will provide the best opportunities this week. 

Options at lower elevations include US 76 between Clayton and Hiawassee and GA 52 between Ellijay and Chatsworth.  Just keep in mind that while bursts of color are possible around any turn, the greens still rule this week.

Northwest GA Specific (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

Poplar in the higher elevations are showing the most color with shades of yellow and some brown.  Sassafrass is gradually fading to orange with hints of red. Oak leaves are continuing to brown further dropping their leaves at a steady rate. A select few maples in the higher altitudes are shifting from green to red, but the majority of them have shifted from green to light green with spots of yellow.   Dogwoods are slowly progressing to shades of yellow and orange.  Sweetgum is still predominantly green with spots of yellow and brown. Hickory continues to brown and shed leaves without any vibrant color changes. Overlooks and ridges are still predominately green to light green with spots of brown and yellow. The weather has shifted abruptly over the weekend including a significant amount of rain and lower forecasted temperatures throughout the following weeks. 

Percentage of color change from green to date: 10%

Scenic Drive:

Take Hwy 136 from I-75.  Turn left on Hwy 157 on top of Lookout Mountain (Or continue on Hwy 157 to go to Cloudland Canyon). Turn left on Daughtery Gap Rd to come out in front of Mountain Cove Farms.  Turn right on Hog Jawl Rd. Turn right on Hwy 193 and follow back into Lafayette. Turn right on South Main Street. Turn left on Hwy 27 Bypass and follow to the next intersection to get back on Hwy 136.

Birch and Maple – Richard Russell Scenic Highway

Northeast GA:

Though continued dry and unseasonably hot weather has us concerned about our fall season, Mother Nature is not throwing in the towel on a good color season. At least not yet. In the higher elevations, we continue to see the red maples developing some dusty reds, but this week they have added some brilliant red and orange. Sourwoods, normally one of the first to turn, have kicked in this week with pinks and bright reds. Dogwoods are showing some earthy reds across the region currently and may be among the hardest hit of our “color trees” by the dry weather and hot temps. The sweet birch, also known as black birch, was one of the first species to show color this year and continues to do so with well developed golden yellows. Also adding to the yellows across most elevations are the yellow poplars which have also shown some of the drought stress with a heavier than normal brown component – and – the leaves of the yellow poplar are starting to line the roads and roadways as the early turners are now falling. Additionally, sassafras is showing reds, yellows and shades of orange in the understories and along our mountain roadways. Throw in the blackgum, again at higher elevations, with some very well developed deep reds and some sumac with their deep reds and we are off to a pretty good start. Overall, we are still predominantly green but with the color that has started we are optimistic and crossing our fingers this color development continues.

Species action this week:

Dogwood – continuing to see some dusty reds and burgundies but still early

Birch  – more development in the yellows at higher elevations but again still early.

Yellow-poplar – seeing yellows with a higher than normal brown component. Early but should be color to still develop. However, more and more yellow poplar leaves are carpeting the roads and roadsides.

Sourwood – starting to see some good color development with reds, pinks and burgundies. More to come.

Sumac – early stages with some reds seen.

Maple – seeing some dusty reds but also starting to see some brilliant reds and orange at higher elevations.  Many maples just beginning to transition with the majority still green.

Blackgum – very deep reds developing in the higher elevations.

Sassafras – starting to see yellows and orange in the understory.

Estimated percentage of color change from green to date:  Highest elevations 5%-10%.  Below 3500 feet still less than 5%:

Despite the drought and record setting high temperatures, we are starting to see some reasonably good color develop in individual trees and some grouping of trees in the higher elevations, though varying shades of green are still dominating the color spectrum this week.  We do continue to see some pockets of trees browning up along dry ridges and some of these pockets are expanding. The forecast for the mountains beginning next week is finally calling for some respite in the high temps. Daytime highs in the 70’s and nighttime lows dropping into the 50’s hopefully will at least ease the stress that has been on plants and trees (and us humans too) and that the processes in place will continue and not get short-circuited. We are going with an optimistic outlook that this color development will continue and that peak may actually come a little earlier this year and back in line with what we have always considered “normal.” Going out on a limb and thinking peak in the upper elevations of Northeast GA may only be a couple of weeks away. Overall peak could be as early as the last week of October but stay tuned as the next week to ten days should give us a much better idea of how things will progress.

Impact of rain, wind, drought or frost on leaf color this week and/or this season:

As of last week’s reporting, the Drought Monitor shows a majority of Northeast GA being in Moderate or Severe Drought. Though parts of the region saw scattered showers over the weekend, we expect this week’s Drought Monitor map to continue showing increasing drought level, and this is obviously not good on many levels. With no rain in sight and with forecast temperatures remaining above normal we can expect some continued impacts on our canopies. We are currently seeing some pockets of trees browning up along ridges and side slopes and these can possibly be attributed to shallow soils perched on underlying rock resulting in shallow roots and faster drying of the soils in the root zones. The spots identified last week have grown in size this week.

Given the extremely dry weather, we continue to urge the public to be extremely careful if using equipment, grills, cookers, and any other items capable of creating sparks in the outdoors. Contact the Georgia Forestry Commission for a burn permit and up to date information on the weather and burning conditions before attempting any outdoor burning. And, if burning, please stay with your burn and have sufficient personnel, tools, and water on site to help ensure your burn does not escape.

Pinks of a Changing Sourwood – Richard Russell Scenic Highway

Scenic weekend drive for a good look at current fall color in Northeast GA:

As last week, still a week or more away from serious color developing, but early opportunities will develop at the higher elevations first making the Brasstown Bald area and the Richard Russell Scenic Hwy. best bets this next week or two.

GA 348 (Richard Russell Scenic Highway) in White and Union Counties, GA 180 running from Suches to Vogel State Park, GA 180 from Vogel to Jack’s Gap, and the GA 180 Spur to Brasstown Bald will provide the best opportunities this week. Just keep in mind that while bursts of color are possible around any turn, the greens still rule this week.

Red Maple on GA 180 West of Vogel State Park

Northwest GA Specific (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

Poplar in the higher elevations are beginning to yellow. Sassafras is gradually turning from green to orange. Oak leaves are continuing to brown and starting to curl as they begin dropping their leaves.  A select few maples in the higher altitudes are shifting from green to red, but the majority of them have shifted from green to light green with spots of yellow. Dogwoods are showing similar characteristics with shades of light green and hints of yellow. The change has started; but there have not been any significant changes thus far. Sweetgum and hickory are fading to brown as they shed leaves without any vibrant colors changes. Overlooks and ridges are still predominantly green to light green with spots of brown. The weather remains hot and dry, delaying fall color change at least another week, and decreasing the probability of vibrant colors.

Scenic drive in Northwest GA:

Take Hwy 136 from I-75. Turn left on Hwy 157 on top of Lookout Mountain (Or continue on Hwy 157 to go to Cloudland Canyon). Turn left on Daughtery Gap Rd. to come out in front of Mountain Cove Farms. Turn right on Hog Jawl Rd. Turn right on Hwy 193 and follow back into Lafayette. Turn right on South Main Street. Turn left on Hwy 27 Bypass and follow to the next intersection to get back on Hwy 136.

North GA Fall Leaf Report #GaLeafWatch          
Southern red maple on Richard Russell Hwy.

The weather is very dry and fire danger is very high, yet a sprinkling of fall color is beginning in north Georgia!

Northeast Georgia:
The good news is there is less evidence of drought stress than might be expected. The bad news is there’s no significant rain in the forecast and daytime temperatures remain above average in the mountains, which can slow color change. About 80% of north Georgia is abnormally dry or in moderate drought, and the trees and plants across most sites currently have minimal moisture available to them. 

As of this week, many of the yellow poplars are already turning yellow with some brown mixed in, but this is close to the norm.  Also, there is a red maple located on the Richard Russell Scenic Highway that year after year starts its color change a week to ten days prior to most others, and it has already turned a muted red. Quite a few birch trees are showing yellow, and dogwoods, sourwoods and blackgum are easing into their beginning reds.  Across mountain slopes and ridges you can start to see canopy transitioning to some lighter greens, indicating changes are starting on a larger scale – at least at higher elevations. 

Less than 5% change from green as of this week.

SPECIES DETAIL:

Dogwood – starting to see some dusty reds and burgundies but still early

Birch  – seeing scattered developed yellows at higher elevations but again still early

Yellow-poplar – seeing yellows with a higher than normal brown component.  Early but should be color to still develop.

Sourwood – early reds and burgundies scattered throughout the region.  More to come.

Sumac – early stages with some reds seen

Maple – early stages with reds developing.  Currently more earthy reds that brilliant.

Blackgum – higher elevations some good reds developing but still very early

We can expect some drought impact to potentially reduce some  fall color. However, based on what we’ve seen in the last week, we still have a good chance for some interesting color this fall. This, assuming that the natural process gets underway before the drought effects can highjack them.  And as always, regardless of what happens, there are no bad years to experience fall in Georgia, just some years are better!

Scenic NE Ga. drive: We are still a week or more away from serious color developing, but early opportunities will develop at the higher elevations first, making the Brasstown Bald area and the Richard Russell Scenic Hwy best bets early in the season.

Northwest GA (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

The change has begun; but nothing significant thus far. Poplars in the higher elevations are beginning to yellow and sassafras is gradually turning from green to orange. Oak leaves are browning on the ends and starting to curl as they begin dropping their leaves. A select few maples in the higher altitudes are shifting from green to red, but the majority of them have shifted from green to light green with spots of yellow. Dogwoods are showing similar characteristics with shades of light green and hints of yellow. Sweetgum and hickory are starting to shed leaves but have yet to show much change in color. Overlooks and ridges are still predominately green to light green.

Scenic NW Ga. drive:

Take Hwy 136 from I-75. Turn left on Hwy 157 on top of Lookout Mountain (Or continue on Hwy 157 to go to Cloudland Canyon). Turn left on Daughtery Gap Rd to come out in front of Mountain Cove Farms.  Turn right on Hog Jawl Rd. Turn right on Hwy 193 and follow back into Lafayette. Turn right on South Main Street. Turn left on Hwy 27 Bypass and follow to the next intersection to get back on Hwy 136.

IMPORTANT REMINDER!

Increasing fire danger! Get a burn permit before burning! GA EPD lifts burn ban in 54 north Georgia counties on Oct.1, but GFC will evaluate safety on a daily basis at your specific location before issuing a burn permit.

A sprinkling of red in blackgum.
Red maple on Richard Russell Hwy.
A change is coming.
NW Ga. Hwy 157 overlook.
NW Ga. Mountain Cove.
Georgia Tree Council Award

Excellence in urban forestry award nominations are due to the Georgia Tree Council (GTC) on September 13, 2019 and the Society of Municipal Arborists (SMA) on August 30, 2019.

GTC award categories include marketing, streetscape revitilatation, greenspace plan, new development, new initiative, business, media, civic organization, community, elected/appointed official, education, individual achievement, student, and urban arboriculture. The GTC will recognize award recipients on November 7 at an awards luncheon at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Center in Stone Mountain Park.  Complete the GTC nomination form here.

SMA award categories are here. Awards will be presented at the national conference in Cleveland, Ohio on November 19, 2019.

There are many worthy projects in Georgia. Tell us your story. Nominate one today!

Check out our latest newsletter, Community Tree News.

Background

The American Grove, located at http://thegrove.americangrove.org,  is an online community of tree enthusiasts. Since 2010, American Grove has grown to more than 4,500 members, each of whom is passionate about urban forestry and planting trees. The site is supported by a part time administrator who fields customer service requests, produces content, promotes content with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, and performs basic site maintenance.

American Grove boasts the following statistics since 2010:

  • 4,541 members
  • 3,200 photos
  • 800 blogs posts 
  • 1,900 Twitter, 940 Facebook, 345 Instagram Followers
  • More than 100 trees nominated to the Great American Tree Competition (2015-2019)

A national committee from representative states has been formed to assist in meeting the goals of this project and providing feedback on draft products.

Brief Project Overview

The nonprofit Georgia Tree Council and Georgia Forestry Commission are seeking a consultant to migrate the American Grove website from the Ning platform to a new online, self-sufficient service provider with user-friendly social media capabilities. The successful contractor will also lead a redesign of the website and create opportunities for community member engagement with minimal administrative oversight. We hope to serve all of the current active site users and provide as many functions and services as we can.

Target Audience and Project Goals

The target audience is state and nonprofit tree groups, individuals with basic questions about trees, and the Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) consumer. The goal of the site is to link target audiences with tree professionals, moving the needle of their cognitive understanding of the benefits of trees, to one of action which includes tree planting and care for the trees around homes and in neighborhoods. The site has also become a place for some state agencies to post current urban forestry events and newsletters in a national repository, and communicate technical information with each other, like a listserv.

Sitemap

We hope to boost the user experience by redesigning and streamlining the site. This project requires migrating a variety of content including current members’ profiles, user-generated pages, blog posts, photos, links to technical resources, and our most popular feature known as the Great American Tree Competition. In addition, we would like to restore an original site feature called the Tree Match tool, provide more tree planting and tree care tips for homeowners and link to the Vibrant Cities Lab website. We will write any new copy that is needed and are open to new ideas.

Project Scope of Work and Deliverables

The project includes:

  • Step 1: Platform options and presenting the pros and cons, and associated cost and time requirements.
  • Step 2: Content strategy for the new platform.
  • Step 3: Site and visual design for the new platform.
  • Step 4: Information design such as a sitemap and wireframes.
  • Step 5: Content migration
  • Step 6: Official launch of new site/retirement of original site on Ning platform

Required Proposal Elements

  1. Company profile including names and qualifications of staff who will work on the project.
  2. Preferred options and strategy for addressing the scope of work.
  3. Proposed timeline with key project benchmarks.
  4. Itemized costs.
  5. Examples of similar projects from your company’s portfolio.
  6. References from example projects cited.

Proposal Submittal Details

Proposals are due to the Georgia Tree Council via email no later than 4:00 PM June 30, 2019. Respondents should email Mary Lynne Beckley and copy Susan Granbery (email and other contact info below).

Anticipated Selection Schedule and Project Timeline

The committee will review the proposals and make a selection by July 30. The successful contractor will be notified no later than Friday, August 2.

The platform research (Step 1) should be completed by September 15 so the committee can make a decision about the platform before a national meeting of urban forestry constituents on November 19, 2019. The additional steps must be completed prior to December 31, 2020.

Project Funding

We have $30,000 to spend on the proposal, new platform, and content migration. We will continue to provide funding for administrative support through 2020. Funding for ongoing support and outreach for the consultant after the launch of the site is not available at this time.

Points of Contact for Questions and Proposal Submittal

Susan Granbery, Urban & Community Forestry Coordinator, Georgia Forestry Commission, 6835 James B. Rivers/Memorial Dr. Stone Mountain, GA 30083, sgranbery@gfc.state.ga.us, Cell 478-283-0705

Mary Lynne Beckley, Executive Director, Georgia Tree Council, Inc., P.O. Box 1299, Stone Mountain, GA 30083, marylynne@gatreecouncil.org, 470-210-5900