Maryland Fall Foliage Report – September 21, 2023 – Autumn Colors Beginning to Pop

Fall foliage map for September 21, 2023. Things are just starting to change in Garrett County. The rest of the state is mostly green.

“When summer gathers up her robes of glory, and, like a dream, glides away.”

– Sarah Helen Whitman

Sideling Hill Overlook, mountain valley with a river

Photo of Sideling Hill State Park, by Ranger Kendra Bree.

Most of Maryland’s tree canopies are still vibrant green, but there are pops of color to be found, even in southern Maryland, one of the last regions to reveal fall color change.  The western portion of our state remains very dry with drought conditions ranging from abnormally dry to moderate, but a system off the coastline promises to bring gusty winds and downpours over the weekend.

Will this much needed rain benefit fall leaf change? According to Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forester Aaron Cook, this system “could help offset drought conditions but will likely not reverse the course on drought stress impacts to fall color from an entire growing season of drought conditions.”

Severe drought during the growing season tends to cause trees to turn color early and the colors to not last as long. Sometimes it can lead them to skip color all together, browning and falling before fall gets started, according to Climate Central

It’s too early to tell if this will be the case across Maryland this fall, but it is something to keep in mind as we explore changes in forest canopies.

Western Maryland

Aaron Cook, Forester, Indian Springs Wildlife Management Area, reports swift but fleeting changes in the western portion of our state: “The cold front last weekend across Frederick and Washington counties brought breezy conditions and much needed soaking rain. The result was that a lot of color in the canopy fell to the ground, ’regreening’ the treetops and joining those tree species that aren’t showing signs of drought and early fall color. The color has been pretty decent thus far but short-lived. It’s a strange start to fall foliage season.”

Stand of trees with a few yellows showing, mostly green still
Photo of the Frederick Watershed by Grace Muller, Natural Resources Technician.

Drought conditions continue to prevail, translating to marked differences in fall color this year, according to Melissa Nash, a Forester in Garrett and Allegany counties. “Hints of color are starting to appear in Garrett County. As expected with the overall dry summer, we are seeing more muted colors,” Nash said.

Bright yellow leaves mixed with the green looks amazing against a bright blue sky.
Photo of September foliage in Garrett County by Melissa Nash, Forester.

Central Maryland

Known as the midpoint for experiencing fall’s transition across Maryland, central Maryland is still mostly green, with the landscape holding on to summer as the first official day of fall approaches.

All green trees line the Patapsco River, still looks like summer
Photo of Patapsco Valley State Park by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

Northern Maryland

Shin Ae Gonzalez, Seasonal Park Ranger, is seeing the effects of cooler, but not cold, temperatures in Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area and Bohemia River State Park. “Nighttime temps are still around 60 degrees, so we are getting only the tiniest touches of red. Hopefully in the next couple weeks we will have more variety of color,” Gonzalez said.

Dark red leaves are mixing in with the greens at Fair Hill
Photo of Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area by Shin Ae Gonzalez, Seasonal Park Ranger.

Southern Maryland

Chase Kolstron, Project Forester in Charles County, reports: “Still mostly green in southern Maryland. Some species are starting to show a couple of signs of fall as well as dropping some leaves here and there, but I expect it to be a couple weeks before we start to see significant color changes. The lack of rainfall over the past few months may speed up this process, especially in oaks.“

The poplar leaves are turning bright yellow here and there. Some have browned and already fallen
Photo of yellow poplar in La Plata, Charles County taken by Chase Kolstrom, Project Forester.

Photos Sent in by Our Readers

A single yellow leaf announces the change of season along Little Hunting Creek in Swallow Falls State Park. – Wayne W. Frederick Maryland.

Maryland resident Rebecca F. in Allegany County writes, “We are definitely seeing fall colors emerge.
This tree next to my house has been transitioning since mid-August! There may not be an explosion of color yet, but it’s definitely beginning down George’s Creek.”

a fallen yellow leaf on a footbridge in Cedarville State Forest

Brenda B. checked in from Prince George’s County in Southern Maryland. The drop in temperature has helped a couple trees to begin to change to their Fall wear at Cedarville State Forest in Brandywine, MD. As seen here, this early bird yellow leaf has landed safely on the path at the entrance of the Orange Trail.

We welcome all of Maryland’s outdoor enthusiasts to send in photos capturing the beauty of the fall season. Please use the submission form to submit your entries directly to us. Your photo might be selected to appear in a future edition of the Fall Foliage Report.

Fall Recreation Spotlight

Most Marylanders are familiar with our beautiful state parks, but far fewer have visited one of our amazing state forests. Fall is the perfect time of year to visit and with over 214,000 acres to explore, there’s no shortage of leaf peeping opportunities.

The overlook at Green Ridge in October.

The overlook at Green Ridge State Forest October 2022.

One of Maryland’s best kept secrets is Point Lookout Overlook at Green Ridge State Forest in Allegany County. Point Lookout is known for its spectacular view over the ancient Potomac River valley in Maryland’s Ridge and Valley Province. Incidentally, Allegany County was recently ranked #2 in USA Today’s 10 Best List of places to visit this fall. 

Watch the Sky

Crisp and cool nights are perfect for stargazing, although with rain expected this weekend across much of the state, conditions will be less than ideal. On Saturday the September Equinox occurs. This is when the sun crosses the celestial equator – an imaginary line in the sky above Earth’s equator – marking the first official day of fall for those living in the northern hemisphere. Also occurring on Saturday, Mercury, the smallest planet in our solar system, will be at the highest altitude in the morning sky; the planet will be significantly easier to see in the days after it reaches the highest point. We look ahead – and forward – to the Harvest Moon on September 29.

Photo of flowering dogwood

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