Sep 8, 2023 - News

When to expect changing fall leaves in Columbus

Data: SmokyMountains.com; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

Here's another reminder that it's still not officially fall: The leaves aren't expected to start changing colors for a few weeks yet.

State of play: Patchy color will begin to pop up between Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, according to SmokyMountains.com's annual U.S. fall foliage prediction map.

  • But don't expect those bright reds, oranges and yellows that provide the best leaf-peeping opportunities to arrive until late October.

Pro tip: The week of Oct. 16 is expected to offer "near peak" color in the Central Ohio region, and trees should be at peak vibrancy the week of Oct. 23.

  • But don't dawdle! By Oct. 30, the colors will start to dull.

How it works: The green color in leaves comes from chlorophyll, the pigment that helps plants turn sunlight into energy via photosynthesis.

  • As nights lengthen during fall and there's less sunlight, leaves stop making chlorophyll.
  • The green color fades and allows leaves to show their true colors.
🍂 Predicted fall foliage progression in the Midwest
Data: SmokyMountains.com; Map: Simran Parwani/Axios

Between the leaves: Our window to view the bright hues is becoming trickier to predict, as climate change impacts when leaves change — and how colorful they get.

  • Ohio learned that the hard way in 2021, when an unseasonably warm October led to a late, lackluster display of fall color.
  • But last year was one of the "best years ever," due to ample summer rain and cool fall nights, David Parrott, fall color forester for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, tells Axios.

What they're saying: This year, our area hasn't had a lot of rain — and there isn't much in the immediate forecast — which may cause leaves to dry out and drop before reaching peak color.

  • "We'd really like to see a little more precipitation ... so those leaves can hang on into later in October," Parrott says.

What we're watching: ODNR publishes a fall color progress map to help with planning leaf-peeping trips, so keep an eye on this page for updates starting in mid-September.

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