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Knoxville — Late summer and early autumn rain may help the color of leaves this fall.

A forester with the University of Tennessee agricultural extension service said three factors have a bearing on the quality of leaf colors.

“As the length of the days gets shorter, leaves begin to change their color,” said Dr. Wayne Clatterbuck, “and cooler temperatures also encourage leaf changes.”

“But the presence or absence of rain can have the biggest impact on the quality of fall leaf colors,” Clatterbuck said.

Ample late-season rainfall has the effect of increasing the brilliance of the leaf colors, Clatterbuck said, but shortening the length of the leaf season.

The leaf changes begin at the higher elevations and spread down into the valleys, usually hitting the peak of fall colors around Halloween.