Jeepers creepers, here come the leaf peepers

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Updated Sep 13, 2019
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Many wait the whole year for fall to arrive so they can participate in activities such as hayrides, cool walks in the park, apple picking and the ever-popular leaf peeping.

While it may seem like a foreign concept to some, leaf peeping, or leaf viewing, has become a popular pastime in many New England states. With an abundant amount of beautiful foliage present in parks, backyards and in other public spaces, leaf peeping may soon be in full swing nationwide.

For those around the country not seeing the full effects of fall just yet, don’t lose heart; your time is coming soon. To get a better idea of when the leaves should begin changing in your area of the country, check out this interactive foliage map.

By simply pulling the slider at the bottom of the graph, the map will show a timeline of when you can expect to see color change in leaves in your region.

Leaf peeping  

For those in the midst of the color change of leaves, this is the perfect time for you to get out and about for some leaf peeping.

Leaf peeping, simply put, is when people travel to view and photograph the changing fall foliage in areas where the change has already occurred. This activity is most popular in New England.

Planning the perfect time to travel is key when engaging in leaf peeping, so be sure to check out the interactive map mentioned earlier to be sure you arrive just when you need to.

“While the exact day or moment of when the foliage will peak in an exact location is not possible to predict, the general pattern that foliage development follows every year is more predictable,” Jim Salge, foliage reporter for Yankee magazine, told Trip Savvy. “So we know that by late September, northern Vermont, northern New Hampshire and northern Maine will be at peak. If people give themselves a nice window in early October in the northern part of New England and mid- to late October in the southern part of New England, and then have the ability to travel around within that area, they’ll be perfectly fine—this year or any year.”

Experts suggest coming by car when setting out on a leaf peeping adventure, as this will allow more flexibility when traveling from place to place. Be sure to stay flexible with your plans, as the precise time of leaf changing can be difficult to predict, even with scientific estimations in play.

It may not initially sound appealing to have a plethora of visitors in your town during this season, but take heart that it can help boost the local economy. With more visitors frequenting shops, restaurants and more, the area can help gather more popularity and revenue.

New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that leaf-peeping tourists spent $26.5 billion between September through November in 2015.

The science of color change

One of the most visible changes of fall that does occur is the appearance of bright yellow, red and orange leaves, but did you know that these colors have been present year-round and we just didn’t know?

According to Larry G. Anderson, director of DePauw University’s Office of University Communications in Greencastle, Indiana, and Bryan A. Hanson, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at DePauw University who studies plant pigments, the deep green color of chlorophyll helps plants absorb sunlight and hides the other colors.

As the leaves lose their chlorophyll in the fall, other color becomes visible to the human eye. This results in the yellow and orange colors; however, it is a little different for the reds we see.

“The red color is actively made in leaves by bright light and cold,” says Dana A. Dudle, a DePauw professor of biology who researches red pigment in plant flowers, stems and leaves. “The crisp, cold nights in the fall combine with bright, sunny days to spur production of red in leaves – especially in sugar maple and red maple trees. Burgundy leaves often result from a combination of red pigment and chlorophyll. Autumn seasons with a lot of sunny days and cold nights will have the brightest colors.”

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