An interactive map found on the Smoky Mountain National Park website includes predictions not just for the Smokies, which rise above the Tennessee-North Carolina border, but for all 50 states.
The Smokies, of course, offer ridge upon ridge of forest that dazzle in the fall, but other states offer equally stunning vistas.
To pinpoint the best dates for a fall foliage road trip anywhere in the United States, the Fall Foliage Prediction Map offers a big assist.
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You probably remember from science class that the color change all starts with photosynthesis. Leaves constantly churn out chlorophyll — a key component in a plant’s ability to turn sunlight into the glucose it needs to stay healthy — from spring through early fall. Those cells saturate the leaves, making them appear green to the human eye.
But leaves aren’t green at all. Autumn is the time for leaves’ big reveal: their true color, unveiled as chlorophyll production grinds to a haltl. The colors in fall’s breathtaking tapestry are influenced by other compounds, according to the national park’s website.
For example, beta-carotenes reflect the yellow and red light from the sun and give leaves an orange hue. The production of anthocyanin, which gives leaves their vivid red color, ramps up in the fall, protecting and prolonging the leaf’s life on a tree throughout autumn.
And those yellows that make you feel as if you’re walking in a ray of sunshine?
They’re produced by flavonol, which is part of the flavonoid protein family. It’s always present in leaves, but doesn’t show itself until chlorophyll production begins to slow.
Photo by David Chapman / imageBROKER/Shutterstock