Fall has arrived about a month earlier than usual because of the 2014 drought and the Mother Lode area is spotted with colors as trees go dormant to survive.
Tuolumne and Calaveras counties experienced an all-around "shift in the seasons," according to Martin MacKenzie, forest pathologist for Stanislaus National Forest.
The change has been most noticeable in blue oaks - which usually shed their leaves in September. Browning and dropping leave are also seen on other deciduous trees.
Evergreen trees, such as native pine trees, do not shed their leaves or needles.
Deciduous trees will draw water and sugars from live leaves and store the nutrients through winter and use them to nurture new bud growth when spring comes.
This process is always dependent on water, Martin said. The trees that have the strongest roots will survive and unhealthier trees will die off.
The oaks in the area are going dormant early because of the lack of water needed to draw soil nutrients and convert them to energy, he said.
The California Department of Water Resources reported the past three years have been among the driest in California history. The calendar year 2013 was the driest on record, followed directly by the lowest rainy season since 1976-77.
For the complete story, see the Aug. 20 edition of The Union Democrat.