Leaf watch: Green is slowly fading across north Georgia in second week of October

Here is the October 8th update on the changing Fall color in North Georgia.  Thanks to the Georgia Forestry Commission for the reports and photos.


Sunny days and cool nights are doing their work. While tree canopies across most of the ridges and slopes in NE GA continue to be a sea of various shades of greens that are getting lighter, we are seeing more punctuations of color in the bright reds of maple and sourwood, and yellows and golds of the yellow poplar.

Oct. 8, 2020 (FOX 5 Storm Team)

Above 3000’ oaks are starting to transition from light green to pale yellow to red, and are giving some of these vistas a real feel that the big change is close.

Oct. 8, 2020 (FOX 5 Storm Team)

Roadsides have seen significant increases in color from these same species, with blackgum, dogwood, and sumac adding more to the roadside reds, and the yellow poplar being supported again this week by the birches. Many yellow poplars are currently shedding leaves with leaf showers common along your drive. However, there is still a solid population of poplar that are just beginning to turn.

Dogwood  - Red / Burgundy
Birch  - Yellow
Yellow-poplar – Yellow/Gold
Sourwood – Red / Burgundy
Sumac – Bright Reds
Maple – Muted to Bright Reds
Oak – Above 3000’ beginning changes to reds and yellows
Blackgum – Starting to show some good reds/increasing in color
Sassafras – Occasional saplings showing some reds and orange.

Oct. 8, 2020 (FOX 5 Storm Team)

Estimated percentage of color change from green to date:
Above 3000’, 5 – 30%;     Below 3000’, 5% or less

Peak time below 3000’ elevation should still be on schedule for the last week of October and into early November.

Above 3000’ we may see the beginning of peak by the first of next week, based on the percentage of trees that are beginning to fade from full green. Winds generated from Hurricane Delta could thin out the canopies this weekend on ridge tops and in the gaps.
Hurricane Delta, currently threatening the US Gulf Coast, looks to bring some rain and possibly some wind to the Georgia mountains Saturday and Sunday. As leaf abscission is already underway in some trees and locations, any winds could result in premature loss of leaves just as they are turning. Biggest risks are the ridge top trees and trees in the gaps, as winds tend to channel here.

Oct. 8, 2020 (FOX 5 Storm Team)

Scenic drive:
Higher elevation drives continue to provide the best color opportunity. South-facing slopes are showing a little more color also. As last week, the Richard Russel Scenic Highway, Dicks Creek Gap (US 76 between Clayton and Hiawassee) and GA 180 west of Wolf Pen Gap should make for a nice drive. Full color at these locations though is still a week to 10 or more days out.

Northwest (Ridge and Valley/Cumberland Plateau):

Overlooks and ridges are still predominantly green, while small patches of yellow and red are gradually expanding.

Red maple, sumac, and blackgum are primarily responsible for the faint patches of red, while hickory and poplar are providing small hints of yellow. Sweetgum also provides a few areas of color, showing occasional reds and yellows but still mostly green. Sourwood is rapidly shifting from green and yellow to orange and red. Oak, birch, redbud, hickory, and remaining species are starting to shed leaves but have yet to show much change in color. Dogwoods have faded from green to deep red in the higher elevations.  

Oct. 8, 2020 (FOX 5 Storm Team)

Since last week, the Fort Mountain area has shown a significant increase in color change compared to Lookout Mountain.
Overall, total color change remains around 5%; most noticeable in higher elevations.

Dogwood – gradual fading to deep red
Birch – mostly green with a few brown and yellow ends
Yellow-poplar – green with a hints of yellow
Redbud - green
Sourwood – shifting to mute and deep reds
Sumac – bright red
Maple – dull reds
Birch – green with brown edges
Oak – green fading to brown
Blackgum – shifting to orange and red
Sassafras – still green, haven’t seen any change yet
Sweetgum – fading to red and yellow
Hickory – starting to get a yellow tint with browning edges

Oct. 8, 2020 (FOX 5 Storm Team)

Scenic drive:
Take Hwy 136 from i75.  Turn left on Hwy 157 on top of lookout mountain (Or continue on Hwy 157 to go to Cloudland Canyon).  Turn left on Daughtery Gap Rd to come out in front of Mountain Cove Farms.  Turn right on Hog Jawl Rd.  Turn right on Hwy 193 and follow back into Lafayette.  Turn right on South Main Street.  Turn left on Hwy 27 Bypass and follow to the next intersection to get back on Hwy 136.