MDC community forester says fall foliage color show to peak soon

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Autumn color will be in full splendor soon in southeast Missouri according to Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Community Forester, Jennifer Behnken. Sassafras, blackgum, flowering dogwood, sugar maple, hickories, and oaks are all in the process of exhibiting more noticeable spectacles of auburn.

Behnken said the region’s fall colors are in patches but are making a stronger presence.

“But that doesn’t mean there aren’t views to enjoy,” she said. “There are several routes in southeast Missouri that offer beautiful autumn-painted vistas and country scenes.”

Behnken said she suggests Highway 21, “especially in the Ironton and Arcadia Valley area for some pretty scenes.” Other striking driving views can be found along Highways 61, 67, 32, 25, 21, 72, and 49, she said. Choose locations along rivers, hillsides, bluffs in forested landscapes.

Places on Behnken’s “must-see” list include Trail of Tears State Park, Millstream Gardens Conservation Area, Hickory Canyon Natural Area, Johnson Shut Ins State Park, Taum Sauk State Park, and Elephant Rocks State Park.

She said some species are going strong, especially the sumacs along tree edges, plus Virginia creeper and poison ivy.

“Sycamores don’t have a striking appearance at this point; they are becoming crispy along the leaf edges before completely defoliating,” Behnken said. “Dogwoods sparkle with magenta and purple while ashes grace us with maroon and burgundy shades. Hickories provide a buttery yellow warmth, and blackgum trees still dazzle with crimson and sugar maples are starting to turn their brilliant warm color spectrum of yellows, oranges, and reds.” 

She said oaks are making their fall color appearance while “lending a calmer color complement of creamy yellow, tan, and russet shades. And at the same time, persimmon sport golden shades while the delicious orange fruits dangle like delectable snacks.”

But be careful not to eat them until the cooler nights make them fully ripe, Behnken said, “or your mouth will pucker in protest.”

“Regardless of whether harvesting or simply enjoy the fall color sights, take the time to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air and reap the benefits of being in nature wherever fall color views can be seen,” Behnken said.

Fall color updates for across Missouri can be found here.