The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has introduced a
new map feature on the Ohio Fall Foliage Web site, accessible through www.ohiodnr.com, which will allow “leaf peepers” to more easily tour Ohio’s scenic roadways in search of brilliant fall color.
The new “Hit the Road” feature allows site visitors to select from a series of 32 pre-mapped routes that are known for spectacular autumn views. The routes were chosen by natural resource professionals.
It shows a map with the route highlighted and place markers at the starting point of each route. It also identifies nearby state parks, forests, wildlife areas and nature preserves where people can go to enjoy autumn activities.
To help Ohioans plan seasonal outings and enjoy the fall color that will radiate through Ohio’s 100-plus tree species, ODNR will post weekly fall color updates on its Web site, www.ohiodnr.com. The reports will run through the first week ofS November.
The ODNR Web site will serve as a premier guide to Ohio’s fall color season. Its pages provide information for travelers who want to map a scenic road trip, adventurers who are refreshed and energized by the cool autumn weather, vacationers who seek places of solace to enjoy the changing seasons and even the students who need a resource for leaf collection projects. Ohioans and out-of-state visitors can also find information about fall foliage by calling 1-800-BUCKEYE or visiting www.discoverohio.com/autumnadventures.
Why leaves change
The key to Ohio’s vibrant autumn color season is a combination of long, cool nights and short, sunny days in mid to late September.
Decreased amounts of sunlight in the fall trigger a chemical change in the leaves of hickory, birch and beech trees which causes them to turn various shades of yellow, brown, and orange. These colors, called carotenoids, are present in the leaves all year long, but are hidden by green chlorophylls during the spring and summer.
Additional shades of red and purple, called anthocyanin pigment, develop in late summer in the sap cells of tree leaves that are rich in sugar, including maples, oaks, sweetgums, and dogwoods.
In woodlands, where there are trees rich in carotenoids and anthocyanins, the combination of fiery reds, golds, and bronzes can light up a vista, creating the typical autumn landscape so familiar to Ohioans. With more than 100 species of trees in the state, it is no wonder Ohio’s Fall Color season is so spectacular.
What makes the leaves fall from the trees? As fall approaches, the sap starts to thicken and slows its flow. This protects the tree from freezing over the winter. When this occurs, thickened sap clogs the leaf veins. The leaves then become saturated with sugar created by the chlorophyll. During this process the union between the branch and leaf seals off and the weight of the leaf, in combination with wind and rainstorms, eventually causing it to fall.