MDC Forester, Jennifer Behnken, Says Southeast Missouri Fall Color is Finally on the Move

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (STL.News) Autumn color is finally on the move this week, according to Jennifer Behnken, a Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) community forester.  Autumn color in southeast Missouri is highly affected by the variable weather, which has changed swiftly from hot to cold, she said.

Abundant rain this year made healthy foliage, which was predicted to produce abundant fall colors this year. However, the month-long hot and dry spell affected the leaves, causing them to turn crispy, brown out, and fall off prematurely on some trees before true fall senescence, hurting future fall color displays.  Peak colors often appear in the third or fourth week of October in southeast Missouri. But this year, color change has been erratic.

“Fall colors may be quick in turning this season, here one week and gone the next,” Behnken said. “Stay on the lookout for this change in the next two weeks.”

Areas of the region all differ, she said. There may be true transformations in the north, while little color may be seen in the southern portion of the region.  Meanwhile, dogwoods and sumacs are going strong across the region with flashy scarlet and purple hues.

“We’re in the balance between some trees showing their fall glory, some already have lost their leaves, and others still have the same green shade we’ve enjoyed all year,” Behnken said.  “Reliable sugar maples are turning to their splendor of cheery hues of rosy orange, and sunshine shades.”

Forested, multi-hued landscapes will be at their fullest this week and next, she said. Poison ivy and Virginia creeper crawl up the trees, lending their contrasting warm maroon shades.  Sassafras add their shades of scarlet while elm trees bring a touch of yellow to balance the warm color wheel of pigments.  Persimmon trees are contributing muted violet shades with their foliage while their apricot like fruits show a pop of orange.

“Now is also a good time to cut into a persimmon seed to see what the shape reveals, following the tale of their mysterious forecast powers,” Behnken said.  “If the seed is shaped like a knife, expect a cold that cuts like a knife, a fork shape predicts a mild winter and a spoon indicates to expect to be shoveling snow.”

As for the fall color, Behnken said warm, sunny days and cooler nights will help with the transformation.

Fall colors can be viewed at several conservation areas across the region including Amidon Memorial, Millstream Gardens, Pickle Springs, and Castor River.  Tywappity Lake, Lake Girardeau, General Watkins, Holly Ridge, Duck Creek and Otter Slough conservation areas are some of the southernmost conservation areas that provide autumn color views.  Highways that follow river valleys and wooded bluffs often have a variety of trees and color to see.

To find nearby conservation areas visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/places.  For updates on fall color changes throughout Missouri with regional suggestions on where to view autumn color, visit https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/fall-colors.