The temperatures are cooling down and trees are beginning to change color – a sure sign that fall has arrived. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages people to enjoy fall foliage through camping, driving tours, hiking, or even floating. To help, MDC offers weekly online fall color updates from agency foresters all over the state at mdc.mo.gov/fallcolor.
“Our fall color reports are such a convenient resource for the public,” said MDC Forestry Field Programs Supervisor Russell Hinnah. “The reports begin around mid-September and are updated weekly. They show users where trees are beginning to turn and also suggest best places to see the changing leaves.”
Predicting the peak of fall color can be difficult, but much depends on the weather. Hinnah noted the dry summer weather could affect this year’s color.
“We had droughty conditions over the summer, which could cause trees to lose their leaves early or begin changing colors earlier than normal,” he explained. “This may affect the amount of fall color we see later in the season.”
The season’s chilly evenings are imperative for leaves to change color.
“Sugars produced by photosynthesis are trapped inside leaves by the chilly autumn nights,” Hinnah explained. “Those sugars are the building blocks for the rich red, yellow, orange, and purple pigments. Cool nights cause the breakdown of green pigments, allowing the fall colors to show through.”
Missouri trees first begin changing color in the northern part of the state, then move southward. Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest to change in mid-September. In late September, black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood are turning. The peak of fall color is usually around mid-October.
“Trees such as maples, ashes, oaks, and hickories are at the peak of their fall display by the middle of October,” Hinnah noted. “Normally by the end of the month, colors are fading and leaves are falling.”
Missouri’s fall color can be viewed and enjoyed from almost anywhere. For spectacular vistas, choose routes along rivers with views of forested bluffs, and along ridges with sweeping scenes of forested landscapes.
“We encourage everyone to visit MDC’s conservation areas or Missouri state parks to enjoy a scenic drive,” said Hinnah.
Fall color isn’t limited to trees. Prairies and roadsides display beautiful shades of gold, purple, olive, and auburn with autumn wildflowers, shrubs, and grasses. In cities and towns, enjoy places with mature trees, such as older neighborhoods, parks, and even cemeteries.
MDC provides its annual fall color update at mdc.mo.gov/fallcolor. The weekly reports include what kinds of trees are turning and suggestions on the best places to view them. The updates run September through November.