Recent rain could salvage fall color - Wayne County Journal-Banner Online: Outdoors

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Recent rain could salvage fall color

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Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012 7:21 pm

2012 is not likely to be remembered for outstanding fall color, but
recent rains could save Missouri's "season of splendor" from fizzling altogether.
Foresters with the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) report that many trees
already have shed some or all of their leaves in response to this year's historic
drought. However, they say it isn't too late for trees that still have live leaves
to develop the vivid hues that make Show-Me State forests a visual feast in autumn.
Leaves turn colors when two things happen. First, sugars produced by photosynthesis
are trapped inside leaves by chilly - but not freezing - autumn nights. Those sugars
are the building blocks for red, yellow, orange, and purple pigments. Cool nights
simultaneously cause the breakdown of green pigments, allowing other colors to show
through.
The water trees need for photosynthesis was missing until recently, but this week's
rainfall came just in time for one last gasp of sugar-making. Given a few sunny days
and cool nights, trees can still put on their autumn finery.
Fall color typically develops first in northern Missouri in early October and
spreads south during the following weeks. The peak of fall color statewide usually
occurs around mid-October. Foresters say the best colors likely will be seen little
earlier this year, due to drought stress on trees.
MDC collects fall-color reports from foresters around the state and assembles them
into a weekly report at mdc.mo.gov/node/4548<<a href="http://www.mdc.mo.gov/node/4548" target="_blank">http://www.mdc.mo.gov/node/4548>;.
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