fall color on maple leaves

Fall color. Photo: Joseph OBrien, USDA Forest Service, Bugwood.org

Updated: March 1, 2023

Early Fall Color

  • A number of factors including environmental stress, insect damage, and disease can cause early fall color.
  • Environmental stresses include severe drought, poor soil aeration, reduced root growth, nutrient deficiencies, extreme temperature fluctuations, defoliation, winter damage, chemical injury, mechanical damage, and lack of establishment due to poor site selection or transplanting practices.
  • One or more of these conditions may cause visible symptoms of stress, or may have a more subtle effect such as weakened defenses against insects, or disease organisms.
  • Plants may be predisposed to attack by pathogens or insects when they suffer stress just after planting, storm damage, or when they begin to decline in vigor.
  • Attempts to remove the stress or diagnose the cause of the stress may alleviate the symptoms and allow the plant to recover.