JEFFERSON CITY Mo – Each October, as summer’s warmth ebbs and Missourians unpack sweaters, the Show-Me State’s forests kindle leafy fires to usher in autumn. This year, the fires will burn brightest in the Ozarks.
Poets wax eloquent about the impending season of splendor, while scientists focus on the interaction of weather and pigments. Most of us just want to know where and when to go to see October’s best visuals. This year, southern Missouri and the tier of counties immediately south of Jefferson City are the places to see fall color at its best.
Many people believe that cool weather or frost cause leaves to change color. While temperature may affect color, it is only one of many factors that play a part in painting deciduous woodlands in glorious fall colors.
Hot, dry weather tends to reduce fall color, according to Nick Kuhn, community forestry coordinator for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). He said flooding also tends to diminish the intensity of fall color. Those facts serve as the basis for some general predictions about this year’s fall color display.
“Cole County to Arkansas is looking good for fall color this year,” said Kuhn. “I think the Bootheel and Kansas City areas may have a bit less color than usual, with north-central and northeastern Missouri being less colorful still.”
Kuhn said he expects fall color to be about average across the rest of the state, due to recent better weather.
Although summer extremes might reduce fall color somewhat, Missouri’s fall weather has been favorable for tree color so far. Moderately dry conditions, with sunny weather and daytime highs in the 60s and nighttime lows in the 40s, all tend to intensify fall colors. However, freezing temperatures, heavy rain and strong wind could still cut short the fall-color season by stripping leaves from trees.
According to Kuhn, twig damage from cicadas is unlikely to have much effect on fall color in most areas.
Fall color almost always peaks around Oct. 15 in Missouri. Trees in the northern and southern parts of the state may change colors a week earlier or later.
Regional fall-color updates and information about the causes of fall color are available at mdc.mo.gov/node/4548/. You also can request information by writing to MDC, Fall Color Brochure, P.O. Box 180, Jefferson City, MO 65102-0180 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information about the science of fall color is available at http://1.usa.gov/nmmmEt.