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Long Island leaf peepers should expect foliage delay, experts say

A look at the changing foliage along the

A look at the changing foliage along the Peconic River in Riverhead on Oct. 22, 2015. Foliage experts are saying the fall colors may be slower to show in 2016 because it has been so dry. Credit: Randee Daddona

Peak fall foliage season on Long Island may still be a way off, but leaf peepers may want to be prepared to wait a bit longer this year.

That’s as dry conditions — with most of Suffolk and a corner of Nassau remaining in severe drought — have pushed the emergence of those brilliant reds, oranges and golds back by about a week or more, say those in the foliage-know.

Indeed, “moisture is one of the factors that affects the timing of the color change in leaves,” with drought conditions slowing down the process, meaning a possible week or two delay this year, said Robin Simmen, community horticulture specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County.

Other major factors, such as the shortening of daylight hours and lengthening of night time, are constants, she said.

Statewide, the shift from green to more vibrant hues this year has been about a week behind, said Eric Scheffel, spokesman for the Empire State Development’s I Love New York program, which this time of year issues weekly fall foliage reports.

The one for Sept. 29 through Oct. 5 shows most of the state at the “just changing” point. Long Island is in the “no change” category.

Of course, all tree species don’t change in unison, as if on cue, said Simmen, with some coming on board earlier than others. She reports “already seeing the tops of maples turning red,” just a blush of it, in East Marion where she lives.

She puts the usual peak time for the bulk of Long Island trees at around the last week in October to first week in November, again, expected later for this year.

Scheffel said a look back at previous years indicates the Island’s foliage reaches peak around the first or second week of November, making the second week more probable for this year. That’s based on weekly reports from volunteer leaf peepers, with one in Suffolk and another in Nassau.

Speaking of whom, Scheffel said he’s interested in increasing the ranks and would welcome hearing from other foliage enthusiasts, potential volunteers who enjoy traversing their neighborhoods and who are up for making weekly reports. Write him at to learn more.

Such leaf peeping may sound a bit “lighthearted,” he said, but in reality it supports one of the state’s major industries — tourism.

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