Fall is here and that means it’s a perfect time to get behind the wheel and traverse Missouri’s tree-filled landscapes to stare at the changing leaves.

Dave Trinklein at MU Extension said that leaves are gradually losing their green color caused by chlorophyll.

“The yellows and golds that we see, biochemically they’re called carotenoids and xanthrophylls,” Trinklein said. “The second type of color that we see would be the reds and the deep oranges. Those are caused by pigments called anthocyanins.”

The travel site OnlyInYourState recommends you go to Lake of the Ozarks, as it was recognized as one of the best places to see fall foliage across the country. Castlewood State Park in the St. Louis area and Thousand Hills State Park in northern Missouri’s Kirksville also come highly recommended. If those are too far for you, you always can travel the backroads to get back home instead of using a highway or interstate.

Trinklein said there are certain trees to look out for.

“From the standpoint of leaf color, the sugar maples, sometimes called the hard maples are the heavy hitters,” he said. “If it were in baseball (they are) the cleanup hitters; fourth in the lineup. Those are the ones that are dependable year after year after year.”

Sugar maples are commonly seen all throughout Missouri and range in color from yellow, orange, and red.

There is one question to ponder, though. Has this year’s drought affected the changing leaves? According to Trinklein, it hasn’t.

“The drought that we had this summer did not impact woody plants that adversely,” he said. “It was hard on them, but woody plants have an ability to withstand droughty conditions as a general rule, most species, then your basic plants like our garden flowers, our crops – corn, soybeans, and so forth.”

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