Local leaf peepers can catch an early glimpse of the fall foliage — if they look hard enough.
Today marks the first day of fall, and while most of the trees remain green, a rainy summer has caused small patches of trees to start turning, according to Fred Borman, forestry expert for the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.
The rain that fell earlier this year means some swampy areas which normally dry up in the summer heat have remained wet, causing the leaves to begin to change early, Borman said. The most likely trees to start changing colors locally are red maples, Borman said.
When the rest of the leaves start to change colors in mid-October, they are expected to be especially vibrant because of the rain, Borman said. The more water the trees have available, the more photosynthesis that occurs, Borman said. And more photosynthesis means healthier trees.
"I think the amount of water we have had this year through all the rain has been beneficial for the trees," Borman said. "Overall, it should be a very good foliage season."
This summer was one of the rainiest on record, with more than 17 inches of rain recorded in Hampstead this summer, according to data from the National Weather Service.
All the rain put a damper on tourism in the Granite State, but the benefits the rain brings to the trees will be a bright spot for the fall, according to Tai Freligh, spokesman for the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism.
"That's one of the more positive things that came out of all the rain this summer," Freligh said. When the trees are healthy, that helps fall tourism."
But the rainy summer officially comes to an end at 5:18 p.m. today with the autumnal equinox. But even on the last day of summer, some local residents were already enjoying traditional fall activities yesterday, such as picking apples and pumpkins.
At Lake Street Garden Center in Salem, Amanda Trickey, 3, of Salem chose bright orange pumpkins while shopping with her mother, Caroline Trickey. Although such businesses always rely on their local customers this time of year, they receive a tremendous boost from out-of-staters who come to see the Granite State's brightly colored leaves.
The number of visitors to the state is expected to be slightly higher than last fall, with spending projected to be slightly lower, Freligh said. About 7.5 million visitors are expected to come to New Hampshire and spend just over $1 billion.
The recent weather — cold nights and warm days — also make for ideal foliage, Borman said. Sugar is trapped in the leaves on cold nights, creating bright colors, and warm days make them appear their brightest, Borman said.
That weather trend is expected to continue for at least the next week, according to reports. Highs are expected to be in the mid-60s to 70s, and lows will be in the 40s to 50s for the next week.
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