Leaf Watch 2021 - Week Three: Big change in color

The FOX 5 Storm Team has once again teamed up with the Georgia Forestry Commission to deliver the Leaf Watch for north Georgia every Thursday this fall. 

FOX 5 Storm Team Chief Meteorologist David Chandley take a look at how it looks on Oct. 28, 2021.


Northwest GA (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

Foliage color change is steadily progressing and is most visible in areas above 2000 feet. Sourwood and blackgum continue to provide a majority of the red patches seen from overlooks and ridges. Hickory and poplar have made the most significant changes over the past week as they are beginning to display a mix of vivid yellows, golds, and browns. 

Sassafras has also began shifting to shades of yellow, orange, and red. Select red maples are slowly making the transformation from green to differing shades of yellow and red. Sweetgum is primarily green but continues to show occasional patches of dull reds and browns. Dogwood recently surpassed peak as its vivid reds are fading to duller shades of maroon and brown. 

Overlooks and ridges are still primarily green but continue to display larger patches of red, gold, and yellow as the season progresses. Cloudland Canyon is currently showing the most change in color throughout the Lookout Mountain area. 

NW Species specifics:

  • Dogwood – Vivid reds fading to maroon and brown
  • Birch – slowly fading to brown and yellow
  • Yellow-poplar – slowly shifting from green to shades of brown and yellow
  • Redbud – gradually fading to yellow
  • Sourwood – vivid and deep reds
  • Sumac – bright red 
  • Maple – shifting from green to yellow or red
  • Birch – mostly green with brown edges
  • Oak – green slowly fading to brown with occasional dull reds
  • Blackgum – shifting a variety of reds
  • Sassafras – shows a variety of yellow, orange, and red
  • Sweetgum – fading to dull red and maroon
  • Hickory – rapidly shifting from green to yellow

Estimated percentage of color change from green to date:  30% to 40% at higher elevation

Lack of severe wind or rain throughout the following week has encouraged leaf retention and led to progressive increases in foliage color change. Expect the first or second week of November for peak. 

Suggested scenic drive:

From I-75, take Hwy 136 to the top of Lookout Mountain from. Turn right onto Hwy 189 (or continue on 136 and turn right to go to Cloudland Canyon). Follow Hwy 189 to Sunset Rock, Point Park, or Rock City. Drop down into Chattanooga via Ochs Hwy / 58. Then take Hwy 193 back to Hwy 136. 

North Central GA:

Maple and birch trees are leading color change in the north Georgia mountains. The golds from the birch are nicely contrasted by the reds in roadside maple and sourwood. Oaks are showing continued development, especially at higher elevations. 

NC Species specifics:

  • Dogwood - Red / Burgundy 
  • Birch - Yellow 
  • Yellow-poplar – Sparse Yellow/Gold 
  • Redbud 
  • Sourwood – Red / Burgundy 
  • Sumac – Bright Reds 
  • Maple –Bright Reds 
  • Beech-Slight Yellows 
  • Oak – Above 3000’ beginning changes to reds 
  • Blackgum – Reds 
  • Sassafras – 
  • Sweetgum-Yellow 
  • Hickory-Beginning to show yellows 

Percentage of color change from green to date:  40% above 3000’; 25% or less below 3000’. 

This pattern of cool overnight weather has continually improved color change in the landscape. While peak time is still a few weeks away, we can enjoy some very nice color development at higher elevations. Peak should still be on schedule for early November. 

Suggested scenic drive:

Vogel State Park Fall Festival in Blairsville takes place this weekend. Leaving Vogel, take 180 to Suches. The roads around Amicalola Falls State Park are showing some nice color. 

Northeast GA:

All species in elevations above 2000 feet are showing great color! The yellow coloration is contributed primarily by hickories, yellow birch, and some maples are displaying shades of yellow…red oak, maple and some remaining sourwoods are providing reds and oranges. Roadsides along the Richard Russell Scenic Hwy have the best viewings again this week, along with great views of the changing mountainsides. The mountains above 2000 feet are exhibiting rapid color change with little green remaining outside of evergreen trees.

This week, canopies are starting to see the most coloration occur in elevations above 1000’ and can be seen from all aspects. 

Roadsides leading to the mountains have taken on good coloration from sassafras, sourwood, birches, sumac, and some remaining dogwoods.

NE Species specifics:

  • Dogwood – Burgundy in lower elevations
  • Birch – Yellow Birch Good/ River Birch Poor
  • Yellow-poplar – Yellow/Brown but past peak
  • Sourwood – Bright Red / Burgundy
  • Sumac – Bright to deep reds
  • Maple – Above 2000 feet most are yellow/red with many fully changed
  • Oak – Above 2500’ light red/yellow with some deep and bright reds
  • Black gum –Red
  • Sassafras –Showing some Reds and Orange.
  • Sweetgum Purple to Yellow and some Red
  • Hickory- Yellow/ Bright Yellow

Estimated percentage of color change from green to date:  95% above 3000’; 

50% or less below 3000’.

If the forecast holds true, next week should bring about rapid changes with bright sunny days and cool nights. 

Peak time below 3000’ elevation should occur the last week of October and in to early November.

Suggested scenic drive: 

The areas around Brasstown Bald and Richard Russell Scenic Hwy are the most colorful drives in the region. Highway 180 has good roadside vistas and views of changing mountainsides. In the lower elevations, leaf colorations along roadsides are beginning to show some great color.