Late Rain Provide Color For Trees

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JEFFERSON CITY - A flurry of recent rain and the summer drought mean this autumn's leaves will be more colorful.

"(Trees) started dropping their leaves early because we didn't have the rain throughout the summer," Runge Conservation Nature Center naturalist Trana Madsen said. "These last couple months, we've been able to kind of get some rain back in (the ground) so it's actually giving back and providing some coloration to the leaves"

Trees in Missouri are going dormant sooner this season because of the harsh summer conditions.  The ones that survived the scorching summer are now reaping the benefits of late rain.

"Some of the trees were pretty stressed from the summer heat and drought, but the ones that were healthy should still come up with some pretty good color," Community Forestry Coordinator Nick Kuhn said.

Kuhn, who works for the Missouri Department of Conservation, added, "The longer (a tree's) in drought stress, the more it's just surviving instead of putting food away for the winter."  If a tree can't store food, the health and vibrancy of the leaves suffer. That's why so many leaves are falling prematurely.

The recent weather though has helped trees stave off shedding. The shorter, warm days and cool evenings are giving leaves more color, especially reds and purples.

"When you see purples and reds, those are sugars that are being made," Madsen said.  "When you get warm days and cool night that traps those sugars and you get those vibrant colors."

Even though this fall might have fewer flourishing trees, Kuhn says to savor the foliage. "The good thing is that the ones that are changing color look wonderful so enjoy what you do see."