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September 9, 2003


SPRINGFIELD, ILL. - A September of sunny days and cool nights should mean fall colors will arrive and peak on schedule in Illinois this year.

"Fall color tours in Illinois are spectacular. They are a terrific way to spend some time with your family and enjoy the splendor of the great outdoors ," said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Joel Brunsvold.

While dry weather during the late summer means some tree species are under stress with leaves wilting and falling early, moderate weather in September should result in a good variation of fall colors.

Leaves change color as the long days of the summer give way to fewer hours of sunshine in the autumn. The green pigment chlorophyll is dominant during the growing season. As days grow shorter, the amount of chlorophyll in leaves is reduced, allowing orange, gold and yellow tints of the carotenoid in leaves to begin to show through. Reddish pigments known as anthocyanin are produced in leaves based on the amount of sunshine available during the late summer and early fall.

If the weather in the coming weeks is bright and sunny during the day, the reddish and yellow pigments may produce scarlet, deep orange and bronze shades in leaves. Should more cloudy days occur, more yellow and gold colors may be seen.

Tree species that may produce deep bronze, orange, and red shades in leaves include the dogwood, hard maple, persimmon, red oak, sweet gum, sumac and tupelo. Trees with bright orange and yellow tints on leaves during the autumn include green ash, birch, sugar maple, black cherry, cottonwood, hickory, yellow poplar and sassafras. For deep purple and red shades, leaves to look for are on white ash and on vines including poison ivy and the non-poisonous five-leaf Virginia creeper.

Foresters say fall colors typically begin to be seen in northern Illinois counties during the last two weeks of September, in central Illinois by the second week of October and in southern Illinois during the last two weeks of October. Fall colors usually peak in northern Illinois and central Illinois in mid-October, and in southern Illinois counties in late October through early November.

Many Illinois state parks are popular destinations for viewing fall colors. They include Apple River Canyon State Park in Jo Daviess County, Mississippi Palisades State Park in Carroll County, Rock Cut State Park in Winnebago County, Lowden-Miller State Forest in Ogle County, Big River State Forest in Henderson County, Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County, Argyle Lake State Park in McDonough County, Kickapoo State Park in Vermilion County, Pere Marquette State Park in Jersey County, Giant City State Park in Jackson County, Ferne Clyffe State Park in Johnson County, and Trail of Tears State Forest in Union County.

Scenic drives are also popular destinations during the autumn in Illinois. For information on fall foliage scenic drives, call the Illinois Bureau of Tourism, 800/226-6632 (TDD 800/406-6418); Greater Alton/Twin Rivers Fall Color Caravan, 800/258-6645; Spoon River Scenic Drive, 309/647-8980; Pike County Scenic Drive, 217/285-2971; and, the Southernmost Illinois Tourism Bureau, 800/248-4373.

Information also is available at the Illinois Bureau of Tourism's web site at





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