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BHSU’s school colors, green and gold, are even more vibrant around campus as the Black Hills fall foliage begins to turn.

Even the leaves are showing their Yellow Jacket spirit.

Dr. Tara Ramsey, Black Hills State University research associate with a Ph.D. in botany, says color change in Spearfish Canyon usually begins mid-September through the first week in October.

“In the higher elevations, Quaking Aspen tends to change early and is a bright yellow. It will contrast against the coniferous trees so you’ll see beautiful BHSU colors – green and gold,” said Ramsey.

Leaves are filled with different color pigments but the main pigment is the green chlorophyll we see throughout the growing season, said Ramsey. The pigments collect sunlight and the plants use the energy from the sunlight to make food.

“As the trees prepare to absorb nutrients from the chlorophyll to store it for the winter, the green goes away and the other colors come out,” said Ramsey.

Spearfish Canyon, just miles from the BHSU campus, is one of the premier places in the U.S. to see fall foliage and changing colors. The first leaves to change in the Canyon are Ironwood with its orange hue, Paper Birch of yellow color, and Quacking Aspen in a bright yellow shade, according to Ramsey. She added that the red hues in foliage come from smaller plants such as woodbine, a vine that climbs; sumac, a shrub; and most notably, poison ivy.

The recent cooler weather could mean more vibrant leaves.

“A dry, cool year is best for leaf color because it stresses the trees just enough. The longevity of the leaf color depends on if we can avoid heavy rain or snowfall near the peak change,” said Ramsey.

Learn more about fall foliage in Spearfish Canyon on the Visit Spearfish website: http://visitspearfish.com/thingstodoinspearfish/fallfoliageinspearfishcanyon/