Fall colors in the mountains near Pigeon Forge TN.
September 26, 2012

Fall Leaf Colors in the Great Smoky Mountains

Each autumn the Smoky Mountains come to life more than any other season of the year. With over a million visitors in the season to see the fall colors. In the Smoky Mountain area of Pigeon Forge, the change from the greenery of the mountainside to bright vivid fall colors is often gradual and the fall foliage season may last for more than a month in autumn because of the greater diversity of plant species found in the forest there. With a wide variety of trees and plant life that are native in the Smoky Mountains all color change and flow takes place as three primary waves from the mixed hardwoods. It is an amazing display of how Mother Nature uses a natural benefit in the plant’s leaf life cycle to simultaneously create another form of beauty for our benefit as well as the plants.

Fall leaf color change starts very subtly late in September and early October, how do the trees know when it is time to change their leaves into their fall wardrobe colors? The major factor influencing fall leaf color change is the lack of water. Factors such as wind, temperature, amount of cloudy days, and precipitation all influence how long we have to enjoy the fall splendor and when the colors will be in their peak. With drier days typical toward the end of summer the tree protects it’s self with a purposeful weaning of water from each leaf to prevent the entire tree from having a lack of water.

How does a green leaf turn to a bright orange, golden yellow, deep red or purple? Carbohydrates remaining in the leaf are needed to manufacture the red and purple pigments that we see in sugar maple, black gum, burning bush, or sweet gum trees. The fall colors we see in the leaf of plants are primarily influenced by three pigments- chlorophyll, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. Chlorophyll gives plants their green color. Carotenoids help make more of the light spectrum also help to protect chlorophyll molecules. Anthocyanins, made up of a molecule called anthocyanidin joined with one or more sugar molecules, typically appear as pink, red, scarlet, or purple in the leaves of fall.

With the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountain foliage having their fall colors turn more shades of radiant colors and last longer than most areas it is no wonder that the Smoky Mountains annually recieve over a million visitors in the autumn season alone. Now that you have read about how the fall colors in the Smoky Mountains makes it’s spectacular change plan your trip to come view the fall colors in person this year.