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Don't expect great fall colours in the GTA this year, expert says

Warm weather means fewer autumn colours.

It's October already and the leaves in High Park are still very green.

Eduardo Lima / Metro Order this photo

It's October already and the leaves in High Park are still very green.

So much for leaf-peeping – this year, Toronto seems set for “a green Halloween,” according to one expert.  

With such unseasonably warm fall weather, each tree species will start changing colours on its own, “species-specific” schedule, said Dawn Bazely, professor of biology at York University.

In order to get an all-at-once, brilliant explosion of fall colours across all species, we’d need several cold, frosty nights in a row with bright, sunny days, she said.

Cold temperatures stop the production of chlorophyll, the green pigment in leaves. Without it, the reds, yellows and oranges can shine through.

And that kind of “classic” fall weather just doesn’t seem to be in the cards for Toronto in coming weeks.

“It’s so climate change-y. It’s terrifying and crazy. Oh God. This is a bit mad,” Bazely said as she scanned the local long-range temperature forecast for October and November – which, she was quick to say, gets less reliable the farther out you go.

But at the moment, it looks like we’ll be getting mostly frost-free nights right up until the beginning of November.

Toronto is home to a lot of “very happy trees” right now thanks to the cool, damp summer, Bazely said. That, followed by the fall sun, produced a bumper crop of berries and seeds. Even garden plants that are normally kaput by now, like roses and tomatoes, seem to be still thriving, she added.  

If the summer had been hotter and drier, more trees might have dropped their leaves in early September under the stress of the heat wave, Bazely said.

The Fall Walks festival is currently on at Scarborough’s Rouge National Urban Park — awkward, as there’s a great deal of green to be seen in the park’s panoramic views.

“We’re not seeing the level of vibrancy that we’re used to. The colours aren’t popping,” said Parks Canada spokesman Jeffrey Sinibaldi. With temperatures finally cooling, attendance has been “pretty good” and is expected to ramp up over the weekend, Sinibaldi said.

Fall foliage isn’t the only attraction, he added: Participants will get to learn about fall “mushrooms, leeches, birds, bats, bees and biodiversity,” plus there will be crafts for kids, and a food truck on site.

If you go:

The Fall Walks festival takes place at Rouge National Urban Park from Oct. 3-8. There are eight guided walks per day over the Thanksgiving long weekend, including many specifically geared to families with children aged 3-12. Parkbus is running a free shuttle service to Rouge over the weekend from downtown Toronto and from Pickering. See the schedule at Parkscanada.ca/rouge.

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