Outlook drab for autumn’s leaf viewing

Without more rain, a colorful autumn is not in Missouri’s forecast.
Sunday, September 21, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 1:13 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

As if the summer drought wasn’t hard enough on crops and people, now it looks as if Missouri’s fall foliage will be on the drab side.

“The dry conditions won’t help the fall color. Trees have been losing leaves already and will continue to do so before they have the opportunity to change color,” said Ann Koenig, an urban forester for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Without enough precipitation, many trees become stressed and drop their leaves prematurely in order to conserve water. Summer droughts like those Missouri has experienced in the last three years prevent plants and trees from absorbing enough nutrients and chemicals necessary for vibrant color changes, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation website.

But if the state receives more rain in coming weeks, it is likely that trees will respond. Warm days followed by crisp nights trigger colorful foliage, Koenig said.

“The recent rain we have had may help with some recuperation,” Koenig said, “but the colors will still be muted.”

Fall colors peak in Missouri between the second and fourth weeks of October and last for four to six weeks, although this year’s season is expected to be brief.

Not all of the state is destined to be lackluster, however. Having received more late-season rain, forests south of Interstate 44 are in better shape and are likely to produce good colors this fall.

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