Dry summer brings early fall colors, leaf drop across Lake County
It already looked like fall at Lake County's Independence Grove in Libertyville on Aug. 24 as a couple of trees are showing their fall colors about a month early. | Darrell Harmon~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 14, 2012 1:13PM
BARRINGTON — An increasing number of trees across Barrington, Lake Zurich, Hawthorn Woods and the surrounding counties are showing their true colors early — a month early, to be exact.
“A lot of younger trees of all species are already starting to do what they normally do in October — they’re starting to die back,” said David Cassin, assistant superintendent of natural resources for the Lake County Forest Preserve District.
At the Independence Grove Forest Preserve in Libertyville leaves began to turn colors in August. Other trees’ leaves are already browning and losing their crown leaves.
“This is at least one month ahead of time,” Cassin said.
The lingering drought that started last December and continued through the summer is to blame for the sometimes colorful shut down.
South Barrington Village President Frank Munao, who also helps run the South Barrington Conservancy, said the lack of rain during the summer has caused the lingering stress for trees throughout the area this fall.
“They will shed their leaves to keep moisture,” Munao explained. “So we’re seeing an early drop, and in some cases, an earlier coloring of leaves.”
Mark Spreyer, director of the Stillman Nature Center in South Barrington, said low water levels also have caused the trees to become more vulnerable to predators like gypsy moths.
“I think it makes trees and plants more vulnerable because they’re not healthy,” said Spreyer, adding that it’s not just the drought but the mild winter last year that is causing the early coloring.
“We did not have much residual because of almost no snow last winter,” he said.
Spreyer added that European Buckthorn, a harmful invasive plant, has adapted well in the dry conditions.
“It’s the only thing that doesn’t seem affected by the drought,” he said.
David Taylor, a certified arborist with Hawthorne Woods-based Sunrise Tree Care, said while the short-term affects of the drought are earlier coloring and dropping of leaves, the long-term affects are abnormal growth. The trees, he explained, will try to pull from resources that aren’t there due to lack of moisture.
“We’re going to see some negative effects next year,” Taylor said.
However, Spreyer said he is not worried about losing lots of trees to the drought. A longtime area resident, Spreyer said he has lived through previous Midwestern droughts and has seen trees and plants recover to eventually thrive again.
“I have faith in nature,” he said. “Nature will recover.”
--Linda Blaser contributed to this report.