Around here, we look forward to hosting the Leaf Peepers. Never heard that term? It’s what we affectionately call the folks that visit Amish Country each autumn to see the spectacular fall color.
Did you know our area was named one of the top three places in the country to see fall color by National Geographic? In their Four Seasons of Travel book, they state, “In the heart of central Ohio’s Amish Country, maple, oak, and the iconic state tree, the buckeye, hang over narrow roads that meander through wavy fields of corn. Drive under the boughs of bright reds and yellows, sharing the road with horse-drawn carriages of the Old Order Amish and stopping at roadside farm stands along the way.”
People often ask us when the best time is to see fall colors. The answer is: right now! Typically, mid-October sees leaves at their peak color, but it varies based on the weather. And not just the fall weather – a warm wet spring usually produces the most brilliant autumn colors.
The leaves change color in Ohio at different times, depending on the location. The northern portion of the state is the first to see fall colors in early October, followed by central Ohio mid-October and the southern and western part of the state in late October to early November. Peak season is typically October to 15 – 25. We see our population increase five-fold as visitors come from all over the country to see the leaves in our area!
The timing of color changes and the onset of falling leaves is primarily regulated by the calendar as nights become longer. None of the other environmental influences – such as temperature, rainfall, food supply – are as unvarying as the steadily increasing length of night during autumn. As days grow shorter, and nights grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with Nature’s autumn palette, according to the US Forest Service.
A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays. During these days, lots of sugars are produced in the leaf but the cool nights and the gradual closing of veins going into the leaf prevent these sugars from moving out. These conditions – lots of sugar and light – spur production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, which tint reds, purples, and crimson. Because carotenoids are always present in leaves, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant from year to year.
If you haven’t been to our area (Wayne and Holmes Counties, about an hour south of Cleveland) during the fall, plan your trip today!