Fall colors: Is there really a perfect "peak" time to see leaves changing color in MI? Send photos

Every fall in Michigan, we weather watchers report on how the fall colors are progressing.  We use terms like "good color," "spotty color," "near peak," even "past peak" in a sincere effort to give leaf-peepers (and I am one who LOVES to take in fall color) an idea how things are progressing.


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The marvelous color show does progress at least a little differently each year, due to weather conditions during the growing season and  especially how cool the nights have been and how sunny the days at the end of summer and start of fall. For example, as we've discussed before, this season's show is expected to be a bit less vibrant and a bit earlier than normal because of the stress the trees were put under by the very hot and dry summer. At least that's what the experts say.

Now, I'm no tree expert;  weather's been my lifelong specialty.  But I watch closely, and it's my opinion that "peak color" is very elusive and probably not worth trying too hard to time.  Take my own yard, for instance.  We have a Buckeye tree in our front yard (please, no comments from Ohio State fans; life is full of ironies) that starts changing every year in late August and is now pretty much bare. We also have three sugar maples that are ablaze right now, stunning in their regularity and color, clearly "peak color" as I write this.  Then there's the old Bradford Pear tree by the garage that usually still has green leaves at Thanksgiving, and every year its leaves end up in my snow shovel because they don't drop until December at the earliest.  So as I gaze upon our little patch of Michigan deciduous display, I can say "past peak" "peak" and "spotty color" as I slowly turn myself clockwise.

Of course, it's that way all over the state.  Different species change at different times, trees tend to turn later if they're near the Great Lakes because the moderating influence of the water eases the cold.  Some trees give up the ghost early, others hang on with a tenacity that our Lions could learn from.

But if you go out, anywhere in our great state in the next couple of weeks, you can find amazing displays of color on some trees.  This meteorologist suggests that you focus on that instead of staring at the green trees or the bare ones.  Indeed, I think that "peak" is really a state of mind.  If you want to find "peak," you will.  You can find it if you are flexible with where to look starting right about now.  Today is a good day to search. Tomorrow will be too.  "Peak"  will likely be in our rear-view mirror come December. Unless of course, you look far enough ahead, at which time it will only be about ten months away.

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