Dry summer brings early color to WNY trees

Posted at 7:35 AM, Sep 09, 2016

One of the most beautiful seasons Western New York has to offer will arrive a little early than in years past, and may be a little shorter than normal. 

The lack of rainfall this past year has some trees calling it a season already. "We're going to have a little early leaf drop because the trees are very stressed and need a lot of water to make the nutrition they need to store in the trunk and roots for the spring when they push the leaves out again," says Greg Haskell, owner of Haskell Tree Service.

The only licensed arborist on this side of the state says his team has been running into a lot of trees that have been affected by the drought. "Over the summer, we are seeing a lot of drought related problems. Mainly early leaf drop, browning of leaves, scorching of leaves."

Trees are trying to conserve as much water as possible. Because of this, they are going dormant sooner and are more eager to shed their leaves. This may lead to a shorter fall peak.  "You might see some brown trees already, that those trees just pushed into dormancy already. Hopefully, most come back next spring. Probably a few won't," says David Spiering, an ecologist over at Tifft Nature Preserve.

As for the color of the leaves, David says that you'll still get to see those vibrant oranges and reds on trees this fall. "You'll still see fall colors, like Tifft will have great fall colors." 

The good news is that the colors are already stored in the leaf. "As the days start to get shorter, the trees lose their chlorophyll, the green part of the leaves that allows photosynthesis, and then that allows carotenoids, as their called that has been there all summer that are those brilliant yellows, oranges, reds browns to actually become visible to us."

Trees that are in an urban area will be impacted the most. However, trees that are in heavily wooded areas such as Letchworth State Park and Tifft Nature Preserve won't be as impacted as much.