Early fall colors tinge foliage in Kansas City and northwest Missouri

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Kansas City
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KANSAS CITY Mo -- Scarlet and purple are not bashful this autumn in the Kansas City region. A blush is already on many maple trees and ash trees.

Sometimes crimson-tinged fall foliage waits until mid-October to make a strong appearance, except for bright-red Virginia creeper vines. But in recent weeks, conditions have been perfect to produce the reddish pigments in tree leaves – bright sunny days and cool nights.

“I think what’s happening is that the reds are being produced earlier than in previous years,” said Wendy Sangster, urban forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC). “They’re going to be prevalent because conditions are perfect.”

October is always colorful in Missouri, with peak color usually occurring from mid- to late October. For those wishing to plan day trips or weekend jaunts to enjoy the scenery, statewide updates are available at the MDC website: http://1.usa.gov/c6bbnG.

Yellow colors are also appearing on trees such as black walnut and honey locust. The yellow leaves occur as days shorten and green chlorophyll begins to break down in leaves.

Reddish colors occur when sugars produced in leaves on sunny days become trapped on cool nights. Mild drought conditions can also enhance the production of red pigments, Sangster said, and it’s been dry in the region in recent weeks. Smaller trees may be showing fall color early due to heat and drought stress from this summer. But the larger trees are simply enjoying sunshine by day and cool breezes at night.

How long and strong colors remain will depend on the weather.

“We need some gentle rains that will enhance the colors,” Sangster said. “Otherwise it will get too dry for the best color.”