Fall foliage provides a colorful backdrop as a bicyclist rides across the Swinging Bridge spanning the Androscoggin River, Oct. 29, 2021, in Brunswick, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Despite warnings that an ongoing drought could affect leaf-peeping opportunities in Maine, a brilliant season of fall foliage is predicted this year.

This year’s season is expected to produce vibrant, eye-catching colors right on schedule, according to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The fall foliage report for the week of Sept. 14, 2022. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Some leaves are just barely starting to turn, and peak foliage isn’t expected for at least another few weeks.

“While some may have perceived fall coloration to be developing a bit earlier than usual in some areas and in some tree species due to the late summer dry period, peak color should develop normally from north to south,” said Aaron Bergdahl, a forest pathologist with the Maine Forest Service.

Fall foliage colors tend to appear first in northern Maine and progress south. The north typically peaks at the end of September into the first part of October, while southern and coastal Maine see peak colors in mid to late October. The colors are generally at their height in central Maine around the middle of October.

“Adequate rain in the north bodes well for the colors in northern Maine,” Bergdahl said earlier this summer. “As you travel north, you get the great mix of [tree] species with good color qualities.”

Drought stress could also mute the variety of colors in some areas, he said. Trees like red maples and red oaks produce a special compound responsible for the red pigments in their leaves. Known as anthocyanins, these pigments can be reduced in dry conditions.

Too much moisture is also bad for red colors.

“The heavier rain areas will probably have less bright reds,” Bergdahl said. “Oranges and yellows should be unaffected, though.”

To help people find the best foliage in the fall, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry maintains a website devoted to leaf peeping conditions. Starting on Wednesday,  MaineFoliage.com will provide updated reports on where the colors are, forecasts of peak conditions and historical data.

Leela Stockley is an alumna of the University of Maine. She was raised in northern Maine, and loves her cat Wesley, her puppy Percy and staying active in the Maine outdoors.