Though drought has muted fall colors, Missouri is still a great place to be outdoors

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) foresters say drought and above normal temperatures have delayed fall color progress in southeast Missouri, resulting in some muted colors this year. Some trees have skipped fall colors all together and went straight to dormancy, according to MDC Community Forester Jennifer Behnken. However, the best species to look for are sumacs, sassafras, flowering dogwood, black gum, hickory, and sugar maple.  Virginia creeper and poison ivy also have remarkable hues of scarlet and crimson, she said.

“Ideal temperatures for the best fall color should be in the mid-seventies during the day and mid-forties at night, which we have finally hit this past week,” Behnken said. “The light frost we experienced last week will assist in bringing out the fall colors and it will likely peak this next week into the end of October.”

Behnken said trees have been impacted by drought stress, bringing pre-mature leaf drop or leaf browning before the fall colors can take hold.  Bright, sunny days assist in food production in the leaves while cool nights retain their energy storage within the leaves, leading to the pop of fall color enjoyed after the green pigment diminishes and reveals other pigments.

Currently, the best fall color viewing is at Millstream Gardens Conservation Area (CA), Amidon CA, Burford Mountain CA, Ketcherside Mountain CA, and Magnolia Hollow, CA.  Other conservation areas have some partial fall colors, such as Castor River CA, Coldwater CA, Apple Creek CA, and Tywappity Community Lake.  Colors in the most southeast portion of the state show the least amount of fall colors, such as Duck Creek CA, Holly Ridge CA, Crowley’s Ridge CA, Ten-Mile Pond CA, and University Forest CA. The best driving routes to view fall colors in southeast Missouri include highways 34, 72, 67, 61, 21, and 177. 

“Interstate 55 also has some good views, especially in the Ste. Genevieve area,” Behnken said.

On an optimistic note, mast production is up this year, according to Behnken.  There are many walnut trees loaded with nuts and squirrels are busy gathering hickory nuts and pecans.  Acorns litter the ground in many areas, indicating a good crop for wildlife.

Behnken said even in muted color, Missouri’s landscape is a great place to discover nature. She advises finding trails, fishing spots, hunting locations and other info at