Fall color on a Monroe County Farm, courtesy of the Missouri Department of Conservation

Some leaves have already started to turn in Missouri, and the Conservation Department says fall foliage will be more colorful in some parts of the state than others.

The state has experienced a variety of weather this year including heavy rain and flooding, extreme heat and drought. More recent weather has a greater impact on fall hues, however. Community Forestry Coordinator Nick Kuhn says cooler temperatures and recent rain will ease stress on trees after the extreme heat of the past summer. Now, leaves need wide temperature spreads from day to night, without a freeze, to be at their best.

Program Supervisor Justine Gartner says many of the shades found in the state comes from its oaks, which offer reds and browns through the autumn. An occasional pocket of dogwoods provides some purples.

Urban settings can hold unique additions to the Show-Me State’s pallet. Kuhn says people planting maple, sweetgum, golden raintree and sourwood trees have injected colors less common in the state.

So what is happening when the leaves change color? Kuhn explains, as the days grow shorter and cooler that signals the trees to start shedding leaves. They release a hormone that separates the leaves from the tree, resulting in the chlorophyll dying off. Chlorophyll is what makes leaves green, so as it dies off the leaves turn.

Central Missouri and the Ozarks are expected to be good places to view fall foliage this year, while the outlook for southeast and southwest Missouri is less clear.