The second blog post I ever made (back in 2005) concerned an environmental puzzle that I had observed for some 15 years. It is now eight years later, and I am no closer to having a real answer to my question.
Guides to eastern trees speak of the gorgeous pumpkin orange color of Golden Buckeye trees in the autumn. However, my environmental puzzle concerns why the Golden Buckeye has been showing fall color earlier and earlier each year for the past twenty-four years.
This is how it begins a small branch or two of each tree turns brilliant color, then more do, and then the leaves turn yellow and brown and fall off - MONTHS before any of the other trees in the forest. Each year the process of turning color and losing leaves gets earlier. A tree that once turned color in late September early October, now begins turning color in June and July and has lost all its green leaves by August. At some point in time, if this continues, the tree will not have green leaves long enough to provide the energy it needs to keep on living.
What is going on? Why is this happening? There does not seem to be any pest involved. Is it changing climate? If so what is it about the climate? Central Appalachia is getting both measurably warmer, but also wetter. We've just completed one of the wettest Junes on record.