'Spectacular' fall foliage forecast for New England In this Oct. 4, 2016 file photo, fall foliage colors a line of mountains in Chatham, N. H. New England's 2017 fall foliage forecast is very favorable for leaf peeping. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)
'Spectacular' fall foliage forecast for New England
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New England's fall foliage forecast is looking fine. It's enough to make a maple leaf blush.

For the first time in several years, little has conspired against a truly glorious fall. There's no more drought. The summer has been mild. The leaves were largely spared by gypsy moth caterpillars. The leaves look healthy.

A pretty great season for leaf peeping seems to be shaping up.

"It's the most optimistic forecast I've had in a couple of years," said Jim Salge. He tracks the region's annual autumn pageant for Yankee Magazine.

"The biggest thing that can go wrong with foliage is a really wet couple of weeks leading up," Salge cautioned. "We'll really need that typical fall weather in New England. That would be warm, sunny days. And cool, crisp nights. But we've had a great setup."

A few recent falls were a let down. They were led by too much or too little summer rainfall. That muted the colors. Last fall was a bust in parts of eastern Massachusetts and Connecticut. That was because hungry caterpillars defoliated hundreds of thousands of acres of already drought-stricken woodlands.

This year the stage is set for a very "strong and vibrant" show. Salge didn't study New York, New Jersey or other corners of the Northeast. But botanists say those states should be in for a nice show. That's because they experience similar weather.

Snowfall and snowmelt refilled drought-parched forests during winter and early spring.

"Since spring, the weather in New England has been fairly stable. There have been no long stretches of unbearable heat. Nor have temperatures been below average. Rainfall has been adequate but not extreme.” That is according to Yankee Magazine.

"The setup looks good overall for New England's fall foliage display this year. The forest appears generally healthy and leaf development has been normal. In New England, normal fall colors are expected to be spectacular."

Jeff Folger is a leading foliage expert. He is from Salem, Massachusetts. He mostly agrees. But he worries about the fallout from a fungus. It thrived during the very wet spring. It affects maples and other species. It mottles the leaves. In some instances, it even causes them to drop early.

Gypsy moth caterpillars also did serious damage in parts of Rhode Island. It also did damage around the Quabbin Reservoir. That is in west-central Massachusetts. Chomped trees sprouted new leaves. But that generally means less-vibrant colors in badly hit areas come fall.

The National Weather Service says it's too early to predict in fickle New England whether September conditions will favor foliage. Its models foresee normal rainfall and above normal temperatures. This may or may not produce those desirable crisp nights.

Even so, "I think we're looking pretty good," Folger said. He predicts that color may peak in some areas in the last week of September rather than the more typical first week of October.

"Happy leaves stay on the trees longer," he said. "And with no more drought, these are happy leaves."

Check out this collection from Smithsonian's Learning Lab to see artwork inspired by fall foliage.

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