While other states around the country boast of early changes of colors and explosive autumn leaves, the face of fall in Louisiana is beautifully brief and to the point. Cooler weather in the deep South particularly in Central Louisiana – is fickle and comes and goes, and the tree palate is just as much so, waiting until anywhere from late October to mid-November to assume its most vibrant hues. Then the leaves are gone as quickly as the colors came.
Tourists flock to the Midwest and farther north in large numbers to enjoy the early season of changing temperatures, boosting local economies and soaking in nature — meanwhile, Louisiana’s fall season comes quietly without an audience, except for those who reside here and relish the season, however short it may be.
Within the last few weeks, fall has arrived and the cypress trees, sweet gums, hickory trees and a few other varieties are staging some of the most beautiful colors of the year. The temperatures are somewhat cooperating, and the result is breathtaking.
Why such a late season? The culprit seems to be the lingering hot, scorching temperatures and lack of rain which stretched beyond normal seasonal boundaries plaguing the local area this year. The year 2023 boasts the hottest calendar year on record worldwide, with scientists reporting it to be the hottest temperatures that earth has experienced in over 125,000 years.
As seasons change, temperatures become cooler and days become shorter. As a result, trees fail to receive the same levels of direct sunlight and the chlorophyll in the leaves begins to break down. The pigment in the leaves transform in preparation for fall and the colors of fall are evidenced in the tree scape. The sugars are trapped in the leaves and form the various pigments. Every tree has a different combination of pigments resulting in a unique color display. Red leaves contain anthocyanin, orange leaves have carotene and yellow leaves are a result of xanthophyll — a simple science lesson from elementary school days. These conditions vary from year to year impacting and determining the length the fall foliage stays. The pops of color, even in LaSalle and other Louisiana parishes, make the wait worthwhile.
Autumn weather feels different and is a sign of a temporal change that is much welcomed and well received after enduring long, blistering summers. Instead of cold spells, the Bayou State has brief cooler weather and shifts from hot to cool have been gradual. Soon, nippy and cold weather will come to stay for longer periods and that’s the sure sign that fall has arrived.
Fall is nostalgic and signals that the days are shorter with better hunting opportunities, the temperatures – however, brief – are refreshing, and our energy levels are revived preparing us for the winter that lingers just ahead. If you wish to plan a fall road trip, there is still time. The pleasant weather beckons to locations such as South and North Toledo Bend State Park, Claiborne State Park and Jimmie Davis State Park, or you can just load up the family and drive the highways around LaSalle Parish, soaking in the beautiful fall displays of local foliage.