COLUMBIA, Mo. – Fall foliage in mid-Missouri is expected to peak during the week of Oct. 14, according to University of Missouri forestry professor Stephen G. Pallardy. Sugar maples along Missouri’s rivers, hills and bluffs will burst with vibrant color this year despite the severe drought, Pallardy said.
Generally, fall color may reach its height earlier in northern parts of the state and later in southern parts of the state, but the next couple weeks will provide ample opportunity for those wanting to take a fall drive.
Although some leaves have prematurely fallen due to this summer’s drought, remaining foliage may benefit from the generally higher sugar content in leaves. Sugars are the building blocks of the red and purple pigments that most people associate with colorful falls, Pallardy said.
Maple, ash and hickory trees will hit their peak color slightly earlier than the oaks, all of which are native to Missouri.
Recent frosts will have little effect on color, Pallardy said, because temperatures have to fall well into the mid- to upper 20s to greatly impact color. However, hard frost, warm temperatures and cloudy weather that suppresses red and purple pigment synthesis could still dull colors slightly.
Pallardy, who is researching plant water relations and physiological plant ecology in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, said canopy oak species, especially black oak, have suffered most from the drought. Scorched leaves in the upper canopy top have already been shed, but mid- and lower-height leaves survived. “The native trees of Missouri have been subject to periodic severe droughts like this summer’s drought for tens of thousands of years and more. While some trees will undoubtedly succumb, there is no reason to expect massive, widespread mortality in our forests from a single event like this,” Pallardy said.
The Missouri Department of Conservation lists a weekly color update on its website at http://mdc.mo.gov and the Missouri Division of Tourism’s online calendar provides a list of events happening throughout Missouri for those who want to take in fall color and culture at http://www.visitmo.com.