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October - November 2009
The United States of America is a vast country and has countless natural and manmade attractions. New York, Disneyworld in Florida, Hollywood and Grand Canyon are just to a name the few. However, this article is about what is known as seeing the ‘fall foliage’. In USA the term ‘fall’ is used for the autumn season. This phenomenon can be seen in many States stretching from north to south and equally from east to west. New England, in particular New Hampshire and Vermont are the names mentioned when it comes to view the spectacular natural exhibition of colourful leaves, which is commonly known as ‘leaf peeping’. There are more than a 100 scenic byways totalling some 3000 miles which could be on the itinerary, obviously depending on the available time.
Normally the deciduous trees shed their leaves and the process marks the end of summer and beginning of winter. On the other hand conifers – pines, spruces, firs and cedars etc - keep their leaves (needles) and remain evergreen. In this part of the world, something else happens to the leaves of the deciduous trees: before falling, they change their colour from green to either beautiful velvet reds, or vivid yellows, glowing gold etc. So they decorate the already glorious villages, towns, valleys and hills against the backdrop of blue skies.
Why do the leaves change colour? There are various scientific theories as to why, but simply, as I understand it, this is due to factors of temperature, light and moisture. The temperature in this region during the day remains warm and the night’s temperature drops significantly as low as 15 degree centigrade. The days get shorter and the nights longer and cooler. This forces some biochemical reactions in the leaves and they change to different colour according to the species and the characteristics of the tree. Oaks turn red, brown or rust; poplar – golden yellow; beech – light tan etc. Maple differs from species to species and turns to brilliant scarlet, orange red, yellow. So all these colourful trees together with various shades of evergreen conifers transform the whole region into a brilliant kaleidoscopic display which is a feast to the eye.
The season of the fall is from late September to early November. A journey through these magnificent multicoloured leafy areas is a great experience. It is a paradise for the photographers and artists who could put to test their palette with the splendid colours of Mother Nature.