ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida doesn’t rank anywhere near the top of the list when people consider destination getaways to see vibrant fall colors in the trees.
Yes, the palm trees are still green but, believe it or not, fall foliage can be seen in the Sunshine State.
Let’s talk about why leaves change colors, and where in Florida fall foliage can be seen.
Many associate the changing colors during fall with cooler weather. Turns out, it’s the light -- or lack thereof.
This year, the autumnal equinox began September 23. The running joke is that fall arrives everywhere but Florida because, let’s face it, the heat doesn’t disappear for very long here.
What does disappear, though, is the amount of daylight. The days get shorter, cold front or no cold front.
Chlorophyll is responsible for giving foliage its green color. As days get shorter, changes start taking place in deciduous plants and trees. Less light means less nutrients for the plant. Trees react to this change by breaking down chlorophyll, reducing the amount of green, thereby exposing the yellows, oranges and vibrant reds associated with the fall season.
Once winter arrives, most of the leaves are brown as a result of all the nutrients in the leaves being reabsorbed by the tree.
Weather does make or break the amount of vivid color seen during fall. The more rain that falls during summer, combined with the slightly cooler and drier days of fall, results in the brightest colors.
If a drought is present, trees will drop leaves to prep for the winter shutdown before the full color is reached in the leaf. Freezing or frost conditions during the longer nights can also cause this process to be stopped, leading to less color and a lot more brown.
While the northern states are known for peak foliage during fall, there are places in Florida where the red maples live up to their name.
From late October through mid-November, the more north you go, the more fall colors you get.
Sure, it happens later in the season after other states have passed peak foliage, but it’s worth the wait.
The Florida Panhandle is the best place to start. About an hour west of Tallahassee and north of Bristol sits Torreya State Park, where the stunning colors of fall can be seen on the southernmost section of the Appalachian mountain range.
Gainesville is also a great spot to see the bright colors of the Florida maple, sweetgum, persimmon and sugarberry trees.
Stunning fall foliage even happens right here in Central Florida. Just head to Wekiwa State Park in Apopka to see the yellows and oranges among the cypress and maple trees that grow between the popular palms we all know and love.
Here’s to a great fall. Enjoy!