ALBANY — As fall foliage begins to transform upstate New York into a masterpiece of different vibrant shades and hues on trees, experts say the best time to see the colors is still yet to come in Oswego County.
Field observers across the state said the county was at a “midpoint of change” in a weekly fall foliage report that noted 30 to 40 percent color transition.
Nina Bassuk, a PhD in horticulture who has taught at Cornell University nearly 40 years, said that peak foliage occurs at about 60 to 75 percent. She expects that could happen in Oswego County in the next couple of weeks.
Bassuk — Cornell’s Urban Horticulture Institute director — explained that green leaves change colors in response to shorter days and cooler nights that breaks down the chlorophyll in leaves. A lack of cool nighttime temperatures and leaves falling from trees is leading to a later change than usual, she said.
“Really the crux of the matter is due to a lack of colder nights, which we’ve not had that many, and the sunlight they receive at this time of year,” said Bassuk, adding that “leaf watching or fall color tourism is a big thing” for the state.
The report, which is generated each Wednesday by the Empire State Development Division of Tourism, notes vibrant and near-peak foliage is expected this weekend in some northern parts of New York in the Adirondacks region.
In Oswego County, the report said to be on the lookout for “luminous shades of bronze, copper and gold,” overcoming the dull greens of landscape with “more bright spots of red, orange and yellow showing through.”
Kelly Jordal, a public information officer for Oswego County Tourism, said she prepares the local report on a weekly basis and submits it to the state once per week in September and October.
Jordal regularly sees different parts of the county for her job, noting in such a large county there can be dramatic shifts in tree color.
“I notice as I’m driving along the north shore of Oneida Lake, Hannibal, Pulaski and Mexico and I kind of check out the foliage and what the colors are,” said Jordal. “It’s fun to see the foliage so different around the county.”
Noting fall as her “favorite time of year,” Jordal recommended the northern end of the county in places like Pulaski and Sandy Creek as the best place to see the more vibrant colors currently.
As a horticulture expert, Bassuk said once leaves begin turning unique pigments can result in different colors in response to sunlight.
“Each tree has its own signature of color,” said Bassuk. “A lot of that brilliance of the color depends on genetics of tree and the sunlight it gets.”
Bassuk said climate change has influenced the annual fall foliage dates, shifting them later and later with temperature fluctuations. She said that changes were typically more prominent beginning at the end of September, but now that’s moved into late October.
“Our winters are getting warmer in general and so things are moving back a couple of weeks,” said Bassuk.
No matter when it happens, Bassuk said it’s something she highly anticipates every year.
“We always look forward to it,” she said. “Everybody’s always asking how the color is going to be, and it doesn’t disappoint.”