Fall colors will be muted in northern Missouri
Many trees north of I-44 already have turned brown or dropped their
leaves as a result of Missouri's continuing drought.
JEFFERSON CITY - Missourians who want to enjoy the awe-inspiring glow of
autumn vegetation will be smart to look south of I-44 this year, according
to the Missouri Department of Conservation.
Conservation Department foresters say the Show-Me State's continuing drought
will put a damper on the blaze of fall color in the northern half of the
state. Local conditions, such as soil depth, will produce pockets of normal
fall color in northern Missouri, but overall the Conservation Department
predicts fair to poor fall color there.
The outlook is brighter in southern Missouri. The area south of I-44 has
received more normal rainfall than the northern half the state this year,
and trees there are likely to show average to good color. Even in this part
of the state, however, trees growing in areas with thin rocky soil are
showing scorched leaves and won't have good fall color.
"Although the stage already is set, the weather over the next few weeks will
ultimately determine the colors we see," said, Bruce Palmer, forestry
education coordinator for the Conservation Department. "More rain in mid-to
late September could help send trees into the fall in good shape. As the
leaves start to change colors, clear, sunny days and cool nights will help
intensify the colors."
Palmer said the peak of fall color likely will occur around Oct. 10 in
northern Missouri. In central and southwestern Missouri, the Ozarks 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 over the Labor Day weekend hardly put a dent in the
three-year drought gripping northern Missouri. Drought-resistant oaks there
will still show some fall colors, but maples, elms, hackberries and other
species won't be up to par. Many already have turned brown or dropped their
"Early leaf fall is a self-defense mechanism," said Palmer. "The surface
area of leaves is huge, and water continues to evaporate from that surface,
even when the ground is dry. Dropping leaves reduces water loss."
Palmer said many trees that lose their leaves early this year will return to
normal growth next spring. Some will die, however. Drought is one of many
stresses a tree can suffer. When combined with disease or parasites, lack of
water can sap a tree's vigor. The longer the drought continues, the more
trees will die.
Homeowners can help trees on residential lots by deep soaking the soil once
a week. One way to do this is to let a hose run at a slow trickle and move
it every hour or so until the entire area underneath the tree's branches has
- Jim Low -
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