MDC community forester says hillsides 'are an electric tapestry of color’ this fall

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Community Forester Jennifer Behnken said fall color is making its debut in southeast Missouri this week, noting hillsides and forested landscapes “are an electric tapestry of color.”

Behnken said the region’s fall colors are a shifting mosaic depending on species and location, “but there will be a good showing no matter where you go.”

And if not today, she said, “then in the next week or so.”

“There are several routes in southeast Missouri that offer beautiful autumn-painted vistas and breathtaking scenes,” Behnken said.  “Colors are prominent a week or two earlier than usual. The dry weather, coupled with warm sunny days and cooler nights have accelerated this process.”

She said some species fail to disappoint, including the fiery reds of sumacs, blackgum, sassafras, red maple, and flowering dogwood. And white ash and sweetgum contribute their yellow and burgundy hues.

“Some trees failed to produce brilliant colors due to the fall dry spell,” Behnken said. “Sycamore, yellow poplar, elms, and cottonwoods are succumbing to dormancy due to drought stress and are not very showy this year. Since it is at the end of the growing season, most healthy trees should not be affected long-term.”

She said of the oaks out there, look for white oaks sporting maroon or scarlet oaks displaying the color of their common name. 

“Post oak and southern red oak lend their rusty and tan shades,” Behnken said. “At the same time, hickories warm the scene with their golden shades. Sugar maples are a glow in an array of red, orange, and yellow, creating a staple feature in fall color transformation.”

She said to look “high and low for nature’s hues,” and the sunlight will glint fall color from an array of trees and shrubs “of all shapes and sizes.”

Behnken said she suggests these locations for the perfect fall color views:

  • St. Francois mountains
  • Mississippi River hills
  • The Arcadia Valley (Ironton)
  • Ste. Genevieve/Farmington area
  • Along Highways 61, 67, 32, 34, 21, 72, and Interstate 55

And for the best views, Behnken said to choose locations along rivers, hillsides, and bluffs in forested landscapes.

Other top places on Behnken’s “must-see” list include:

  • Trail of Tears State Park
  • Millstream Gardens Conservation Area
  • Amidon Conservation Area
  • Hickory Canyon Natural Area
  • Hawn State Park
  • Johnson Shut-Ins State Park
  • Taum Sauk State Park
  • Elephant Rocks State Park

“Regardless of whatever activity takes you to the great outdoors, take time to enjoy the sunshine, fresh air, and reap the benefits of being in nature wherever fall color views can be seen,” she said.

Fall color updates for across Missouri can be found online at