SOUTHERN MISSOURI -- The first day of fall showed its face on the calendar Sept. 22, and according to the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) Forestry Division, the southern portion of the state below I-44, including Oregon County, will offer the most colorful autumn vegetation this year.
The foresters say the continuing drought in the northern portion of the state will put a damper on the array of fall colors in that portion of Missouri. Local conditions such as soil depth will produce pockets of normal fall colors in northern Missouri but MDC predicts fair to poor fall colors there.
The area south of I-44 has received more normal rainfall and trees in southern Missouri are likely to show average to good color. MDC reports even in this part of the state trees growing in areas with thin rocky soil are showing scorched leaves and won't have good fall colors.
"Although the stage is already set, the weather over the last two weeks in September will ultimately determine the colors we see," forester Bruce Palmer said.
He said the peak of fall colors should occur around Oct. 10 in northern Missouri. In central and southwestern Missouri, the Ozarks and and around Kansas City and St. Louis, the peak will be the third or fourth weekend in October. Southeastern Missouri will see peak fall colors near the end of October.
Widespread, heavy rain Labor Day weekend did not put a dent on the three year drought gripping northern Missouri. Drought resistant oaks there will still show some fall colors, but maples, elms, hackberries and other trees won't be up to par. Many trees have already turned brown or dropped their leaves permanently. "Early leaf fall is a self defense mechanism," Palmer said. "The surface area of leaves is huge and water continues to evaporate from the surface, even when the ground is dry. Dropping leaves reduces water lose," Palmer said.