What makes Litchfield fall foliage the world’s best?
One of nature’s most breathtaking shows occurs in autumn, as the tops of the Berkshire mountains turn from verdant green to an artist’s palette of dazzling hues. Hundreds of thousands of leaf viewers make the annual pilgrimage here just to see it. Many areas of the world have fall foliage, but Litchfield County and up into the Berkshires provide the world’s best color, thanks to the prominent presence of a single type of tree—the magical maple.
Brilliant red, yellow, and orange hues are produced by the largest concentration of various maple species found anywhere. Other common deciduous trees on display are birch (mostly yellow leaves), dogwood (purple to scarlet), beech (brown to yellow), ash (yellowish brown), and oaks (red to russet). Berkshire poet William Cullen Bryant called the annual spectacle “the year’s last loveliest smile.”
The autumn show’s timing is mainly regulated by the calendar. As days grow shorter, the flow of chlorophyll to the leaves diminishes and they lose the green in favor of their natural colors. Deprived of their source of nourishment, the leaves die and fall to the ground. Evergreens, their needles protected by a waxy substance, remain green throughout the year.
Leaf-peepers can follow the progress of the color from northern Vermont in early September to the Berkshires, then at peak brilliance around Columbus Day here in Litchfield. Weekly foliage reports are given by the “Leaf Chief” on the Berkshire Visitors Bureau website (berkshires.org). They track the best viewing locations of this seasonal splendor.