Fall Color

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Fall Color
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Fall Color
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Predicting the peak of fall color can be difficult. Missouri is blessed with a great variety of trees, shrubs, and vines. Their leaves turn at different times, so Missourians enjoy a fall color season that may last four to six weeks. Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest to change, beginning in mid-September. By late September, black gum, bittersweet, and dogwood are turning.

The peak of fall color in Missouri is usually around mid-October. This is when maples, ashes, oaks, and hickories are at the height of their fall display. Normally by late October, the colors are fading and the leaves beginning to drop from the trees. Fall color is usually finished by the middle of November.

The progression of color change starts earliest in north Missouri and moves southward across the state. Generally, the color change is predictable, but it can vary from year to year. Much depends on the weather.

Where’s The Best Place?

You can enjoy Missouri’s fall color almost anywhere.

  • For spectacular vistas, choose routes along rivers with views of forested bluffs, and along ridges with sweeping scenes of forested landscapes.
  • On a smaller scale, drive on back roads, hike, or take a float trip under a colorful forest canopy on a clear, blue-sky day. Visit MDC Conservation Areas and Missouri State Parks.
  • Even treeless areas, such as prairies and roadsides, display beautiful shades of gold, purple, olive, and auburn with autumn wildflowers, shrubs, and curing, rustling grasses.
  • If you can’t get out of town, enjoy places with mature trees, such as older neighborhoods, parks, and even cemeteries.

Find events on your route

The Missouri Division of Tourism’s online calendar is packed with events happening all across Missouri this fall. Find those along your preferred routes.

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Fall Color Reports

  • Central Region, including Columbia, Jefferson City, and Lake of the Ozarks
    Status
    In progress

    Most of the trees that started showing color last week have brightened. Sycamores and catalpas have intensified to a bright light green. Hickories have progressed to yellow, but many still contain green leaves. Persimmons are at peak color; as you look across the landscape, they appear as bright orange and yellow spots. Sassafras is also displaying bright reds and oranges. Most oaks are remaining green. Sumacs and dogwoods are still red but are on the decline, particularly in the north part of our region. In the southern part of the region, black gums have individual crimson leaves mixed in with the green.

    Across the Central Region, the portions of sugar maples that receive a lot of sun are becoming tinged with orange, and red maples are beginning to blush red. The maple species always put on a great show, so watch their progress in the coming weeks!

    Where the ash trees have not succumbed to the emerald ash borer (EAB), parts of the canopies of green ash are bright yellow, and the leaves of white ash are fading from purplish red to brown. If you have an ash tree that you would like to save from EAB, there are options for treating them. See the Management Guide link in the list below.

    Fall Color Hot Spots

    A drive on MO 100 from Linn all the way to St. Charles is a good route to see some brilliant scenery along the Missouri River.

    If you’re in the mood for a hike, Saline Valley Conservation Area is a good place to visit in autumn due to its assortment of habitats, rich wildlife viewing opportunities, and abundance of wooded hills to explore and enjoy Missouri’s outdoors. Be sure to wear an orange vest, as archery deer hunters are also taking to the woods.

  • Kansas City Region
    Status
    Beginning to turn

    Fall colors in the Kansas City Region seem to be delayed this year due to warmer than usual temperatures this fall. The recent rains were not intense enough to have knocked leaves off of most trees, and the moisture could salvage some of the fall color display that had been in some jeopardy due to a very dry fall. And conditions over the last week or two have been right for trees to produce their red pigments — sunny days and cool nights. Keep an eye out for vibrant reds, purples, and oranges in red and sugar maples and in white ash. Meanwhile, yellows are coming out in honey locust, green ash, and hackberry due to the shorter days. But colors are still spotty.

    Fall Color Hot Spots

    For scenic fall color drives in our region, try MO 45 and 224 along the Missouri River. For hiking and photography, try Big Buffalo Creek, Burr Oak Woods, and White Alloe Creek Conservation Areas; Maple Woods Natural Area; Knob Noster State Park; Forest Hills and Mount Washington cemeteries, and the Swope Memorial in Swope Park. For more places within the city, VisitKC.com also has suggestions for where to find fall color.

  • Northeast Region, including Kirksville and Hannibal
    Status
    In progress

    Scarlets and purples are coming on strong in our region and will be especially striking in white ash, sumacs, sassafras, black cherry, and dogwoods. Yellows are coming out in honey locust, green ash, hackberry, hickories, tulip tree, and others. In urban areas, expect your gingko leaves to turn bright yellow in the following weeks. The intensity is currently variable, with some individual trees showing vibrant colors while others, of the same species, are not turning at all. Fall color has been late this year, but with mid- and late October upon us, expect vibrant colors to develop soon.

    Fall Color Hot Spots

    For scenic fall color drives in our region, consider taking a drive on US 136 and MO 6; both are east-west highways through northern Missouri. For hiking, horseback riding, and photography, we suggest visiting Fox Valley Lake, Indian Hills, Mineral Hills, and Rebel’s Cove Conservation Areas.

  • Northwest Region, including St. Joseph and Chillicothe
    Status
    Beginning to turn

    Color is getting a little better in the Northwest Region. There are scattered groups of trees in the rural areas that are showing improved yellows. Trees in low areas along creeks and rivers are mostly leafless. Cottonwoods, especially, are already bare. The best color so far is in the rural areas in the hills, where you should find yellows in some hickories and some reds and oranges in maples. The sumacs are still producing a pale purple, while poison ivy and Virginia creeper have probably some of best reds and purples so far this year.

    There are some individual trees, mostly in towns, that are showing really good color. Most of these trees are either red or sugar maples. They are hard to find but worth the effort for early diehard fall color seekers.

    Most of the area received rain this week, which is good, but it will take some time to benefit the trees’ color production. Even better would be some sunny, warm days and cool nighttime temperatures — and soon. Of course, we don’t want freezing temperatures yet, since that would negatively affect fall color and any late garden vegetables and outside plants.

  • Ozark Region, including Rolla, West Plains, and Eminence
    Status
    Beginning to turn

    It’s the middle of October, and the Ozark Region is just beginning to feel a little like fall. Recent rains and slightly cooler temperatures have brought out more color across the landscape. Although the rolling forested hillsides are speckled with individual tree crowns of yellows and browns, the overall color remains greenish yellow. Scattered trees, mostly oaks, can also be seen with a slight hint of red and yellow showing. The hickories that were yellow last week have now turned brown, and some of their leaves have fallen off.

    Along the river and creek valleys, American sycamore, black walnut, maple, and elms are looking more autumnal. They are starting to show nice yellows and reds, and some trees are starting to drop their leaves.

    Now, the best colors are found in the understory, below the main tree canopy. Here, black gum, dogwoods, and sassafras are showing a lot of red and purplish hues. Driving down tree-lined country roads offers good opportunities to slow down and enjoy the scenery.

    Black gum is easily recognized by its branching pattern. Branches, off the main trunk, grow out at a 90-degree angle. These abundant limbs have many smaller, young branches growing straight out from them, also. The leaves are alternate, oval, and come to a point at the tip. Most of the brilliant red or crimson that you see now in the understory will be black gum.

    Fall Color Hot Spots

    As fall color develops, virtually any wooded area will become scenic. Our suggestions this week are listed in the links below. It’s a great time to seek out a new area you haven’t visited before.

  • Fall color tinting trees at a public playground in Viburnum, Missouri
    Southeast Region, including Cape Girardeau, Farmington, and Poplar Bluff
    Status
    In progress

    Fall colors are starting to move forward but still have a ways to go. They seem a bit delayed and subdued this year. The cool front that arrives this coming weekend should pick up the pace of color change.

    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. The canopies of black gum and sassafras are speckled with splashes of fiery red. Dogwoods and sugar maples show tints of warm hues, hinting of more intense color to come, so stay tuned.

    Persimmon trees are the new highlight this week: their egg-shaped leaves are sporting golden shades while the delicious orange fruits dangle like delectable snacks. Be careful not to eat them until the cooler nights make them fully ripe, or your mouth will pucker in protest. Red mulberry and plum trees are also contributing with their own shades of yellow.

    Fall Color Hot Spots

    This weekend will be much cooler — a real contrast to last weekend’s final pulse of summer-like temperatures. Fall colors will be more present in the forested tracts in the northern portions and the river hills of our region. Consider taking a drive along US 61, US 67, MO 32, MO 49, and MO 21. You can visit one of the many beautiful spots along the way; see our suggestions in the links below.

  • Southwest Region, including Springfield, Branson, and Joplin
    Status
    In progress

    Fall colors are variable across the Southwest Region.

    In the northern counties, sassafras and sumacs are in full red color. The trees growing along stream bottoms are all starting to change to yellows and light greens, and the sycamores are turning their normal brown color. Hickory leaves are turning yellows and browns and are falling off. The oaks are still pretty green here. Dogwoods have been really nice this year.

    In the southern counties, sumacs, Virginia creeper, sassafras, and dogwoods are all showing shades of red or orange, with many dropping leaves. Some yellows are coming out in cherry and hackberry along the bottoms and along roadsides.

    Fall Color Hot Spots

    With fall color more developed in the northern part of our region, we suggest driving along MO 64 and visiting MDC conservation areas in Laclede, Dallas, Hickory, Polk, Cedar, and Dade counties.

    Throughout the region, in communities you can see individual maples showing shades of red, but these are variable.

  • St. Louis Region
    Status
    Beginning to turn

    Because of the warmer than normal weather, especially the warm nighttime temperatures, color change is occurring slowly in many areas around our region. Some early-turning species continue to become more consistent although a lot of green is still visible, especially in and around St. Louis. Early defoliation is occurring in areas where rainfall has been less frequent. Flowering dogwood, sumac, and Virginia creeper seem to be the most consistent, but you can find individual sassafras, persimmon, hackberry, sugar maple, blackhaw, redbud, and a few hickories with decent color. If we get some overnights with lows in the 40s, it would help things progress and improve our late-season color.

    Fall Color Hot Spots

    Color tends to be sporadic around the region, but it will be best outside of St. Louis City and County where nights are cooler. It’s still early to find large areas with fall color, but check out Daniel Boone, Little Lost Creek, or B. K. Leach Conservation Areas for some early displays. Early fall wildflowers are still the best bet for consistent color, so visiting area prairies at Busch, Valley View Glades, or Victoria Glades Conservation Areas or Shaw Nature Reserve should give you a chance to see both wildflowers and a splash of fall color in trees.