Fall colors absent as fungus robs Utah aspens of foliage

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PARK CITY, Utah -- The rich, golden fall colors make aspens a favorite to photograph, but this year a fungal outbreak has subdued the spectacular seasonal display.

“I love the aspen stands… Especially this time of year,” said Bret Webster, Photographer and owner of Bret Webster Images Studio.

Early October is when Bret Webster grabs his camera and hikes to his favorite grove of aspens in Park City, but this year the fall colors are gone.

“Starting in August, everyone was scratching their head saying, 'They didn't even change their color, they just kind of crinkled up and fell,'” Webster said.

According to the State Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands, a massive fungus outbreak has been attacking acres of trees throughout the state.

“This is called Marssonina leaf blight, or aspen leaf spot,” said Colleen Keyes, Forest Health Program Manager for the State.

It’s the biggest outbreak of its kind in decades. Keyes said this year’s wet, cold spring is to blame.

“It infects the leaves at leaf bud,” Keyes said.

The fungus then spreads throughout the leaves, but Keyes said it doesn't kill the trees.

“It might be a shock, and there might be some concern with it thinking that their trees are in major trouble, but it's not really,” Keyes said.

Depending on weather conditions, it’s likely the fungus won’t spread as much as last year and the fall colors will be back.

“It’s disappointing in the color, but it's just nature doing its thing," Webster said. "Maybe it will make us appreciate a verdant year that much more when they all blossom in beautiful colors in the fall."

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