Missouri will continue to offer beautiful views for outdoor social distancing as the fall season gets underway. The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) offers weekly online fall color updates from agency foresters all over the state at mdc.mo.gov/fallcolor.
“The fall color report is a great resource for those wanting to enjoy the changing foliage,” said MDC Community Forester Ann Koenig. “It shows users where trees are beginning to turn and also suggests the best places to view the changing leaves.”
Generally, the changing of the leaves is predictable, but it can vary from year to year depending on the weather. Koenig explained that a windy fall or early hard freeze can dampen the fall color in trees due to the fact the leaves blow off the trees or freeze.
Chilly autumn nights are key to leaves changing color. Sugars produced by photosynthesis become trapped inside leaves. Those sugars are the building blocks for the rich red, yellow, orange, and purple pigments. Cooler 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 across the state. Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest to change in mid-September. In late September, black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood begin turning.
"Bright, cloudless autumn days are ideal for a good display of fall color,” Koenig noted. “And, as a general rule, I mark about the third week in October as a good time to be paying attention to fall color for Mid-Missouri. Colors are usually fading and leaves are falling by the end of the month.”
Missouri’s fall color can be enjoyed from almost anywhere.
“MDC’s conservation areas or Missouri state parks offer great scenic views for the public to enjoy the changing leaves,” said Koenig.
The public can enjoy fall foliage through camping, driving tours, hiking, or even canoeing or floating. And 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’s weekly fall color update, available at mdc.mo.gov/fallcolor, includes what kinds of trees are turning and suggestions on the best places to view them. The updates run September through November.