Some trees already changing color due to the drought

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

It was a hot topic on our Facebook page this weekend, so we set out to answer what's the deal with leaves changing color already?

"It’s not unusual to start seeing color in the middle of august," says Chris Widstrand, Forester for the DNR. But this year it's definitely more noticeable traveling around the Chippewa Valley especially on certain trees like maple. But what's behind the early change?

"We've had both heat stress and drought stress and some of the trees they're even having stress from insects because the Japanese beetles have been so severe this year," says Nancy Skelley, owner of The Potting Shed.

"When trees are under stress they will go in dormancy earlier in the growing season so if they're drought stressed they're just shutting down for the year if they've finished their life cycle and getting ready for winter," Widstrand. He says it's not dry weather that usually contributes to peak fall color. "We need those cool nights, warm sunny days to really bring out that color in trees."

Well it's not just the small trees in town that have been changing color, but also the larger trees as well have been showing some of those yellow oranges and reds. Skelley has been giving advice to those concerned about their trees. "You still want to take care of it as if it’s perfect because we're trying to build up the amount of water the tree has taken up so it can winter itself well."

The recommendation is one inch of water a week for established trees and a bit more for trees less than 3 years old. Widstrand says at this point it is hard to tell what effect the drought will have on trees across Western Wisconsin “If it continues to be dry that effects the roots and if we have low snow cover again that damages the roots of trees in the winter,” which could make them susceptible to insects and disease next spring.

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