Discover nature this season with MDC’s fall color report

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Enjoy the colors of the season, such as the orange leaves on maple trees, with MDC’s weekly fall color report. Photo courtesy MDC

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After a hot and humid summer, most are welcoming the fall season with open arms. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages people to enjoy fall foliage through camping, hiking, driving tours, 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 weekly fall color updates are a great resource for the public,” said MDC Forestry Field Programs Supervisor Russell Hinnah. “Foresters begin posting reports in mid-September that show users where trees are beginning to turn and even suggest great places to see changing leaves.”

Hinnah noted the drought experienced over the summer could affect this year’s color.

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“The dry conditions we saw this summer could cause trees to lose their leaves early or begin changing colors earlier than normal,” he said. “This may affect the amount of fall color we see later in the season.”

The chilly evenings we see in the fall season are critical for leaves to change color.

“Sugars produced by photosynthesis are trapped inside leaves by the cool autumn nights,” Hinnah explained. “Those sugars are the building blocks for the rich red, yellow, orange, and purple pigments. Chilly 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 usually hits around mid-October.

“Trees like maple, ash, oak, and hickory 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 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.

“MDC conservation areas or Missouri state parks are wonderful places to take in the fall color,” suggested Hinnah.

And fall color isn’t just 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 species of trees are turning and suggestions on best places to see them. The updates run September through November.

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