If you've noticed the leaves changing earlier than average, you're not alone.

Chris Thomsen with Virginia Department of Forestry says he's noticed the changes as well, but says "the changes may not be directly related to the recent heavy rain, rather heavy, spring rain, summer dry weather and the unseasonably cool temperatures."

The recent cloudy skies may have also accented the spotty color changes with the brilliant colors against the neighboring deep green foliage.

Trees often change colors early when they become stressed in any way. It's their defense mechanism. It may not even be from stress right now, but rather a stress over the last year or two.

WHAT CAUSES STRESS?

Thomsen explains, if one or two limbs of the tree show premature fall color, it could be a sign of insect infestation, or even fungus or disease at work, weakening only the infected limbs.

In rare cases, the entire tree will show premature fall coloration, a phenomenon usually linked to root-related stress.

A wet, cool weather pattern is ideal for fungus growth.

So far, most have observed very patchy color changes.

Experts say if changes occur in an isolated tree here and there is not an extremely alarming sign. If an entire hillside was starting to change color, it would be considered very abnormally early right now.

By the way, late September through early November is peak foliage season.