Posted by: Sandy Steinman | October 29, 2015

Yosemite Valley Fall Color 10/29/15

Michael Frye reported

Our trip to the Valley also gave me a chance to check on the fall color. The good news is that the big-leaf maples have progressed quite a bit since my visit last Thursday, and there’s a lot more yellow around the valley. The bad news is that many of the maple leaves that were green last week have turned brown instead of yellow. I had assumed that those seemingly-healthy green leaves I saw last week would turn yellow, and many of them have, but a substantial percentage – maybe 30 to 40 percent – have turned brown instead. Many maples are still green, but most of those that have turned contain a mix of yellow and brown leaves. In distant views this looks fine, but even a moderately closeup photograph will reveal those brown leaves.

As I wrote in my last post, the cottonwoods are all bare. The oaks are also showing a lot of brown leaves. As with the maples, oak leaves that were green last week have turned brown instead of gold; unlike the maples, with the oaks this is almost universal. There are some colorful oak leaves in the valley, but they’re hard to find.

The dogwoods are still mostly green, with a sprinkling of red and yellow leaves on some trees. So far, the dogwoods look healthy, so they may still put on a good autumn display, but if so it won’t be for at least another week. And it’s possible that the dogwoods may also turn brown, as so many of the other valley trees have.

It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the drought has led to this poor autumn display. Nature is resilient, but after four years of below-average precipitation, with little snowpack, all of the trees are stressed. Here in California we’ve heard so many news reports about the monster El Nino brewing in the Pacific that many people assume the drought is all but over. But long-term weather forecasts are quite unreliable. I’m hopeful, but not counting on anything until we see substantial rain and snow actually fall from the sky.

See photos at A Stormy Afternoon, and a Fall Color Report

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