Article by Mike Downey, VA Department of Forestry

Fall is here and some parts of Virginia have not seen rain in days! Despite the dry weather, low relative humidity and unusual warmer temperatures, the red maples, river birch, and other hardwoods are beginning to change color.

Do you know why leaves change color?

During the spring and summer, leaves absorb and store enough food necessary for growth. Each leaf has cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. When the temperatures drop and daylight shortens, the food-making process ends and the trees begin their journey for winter preparation. As the chemical changes occur, the chlorophyll breaks down and the green color disappears changing the leaf color to orange and yellow giving the Blue Ridge Mountains their color.

We all know trees are important to our waterways. Riparian forested buffers play a major role in our community filtering runoff, absorbing excess nutrients, offering shade, wildlife habitat, and flood protection. There are numerous programs available to landowners to help establish a buffer on a stream, creek or other waterways on their property. Just a few examples are the James River Buffer Program, Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program.

Fall is also a great time of year to get outdoors and go for a hike, get some much-needed yard work done or perhaps plant a tree! See last month’s blog on how you can establish your buffer and contact your local forester for any questions.