Fall color is starting to make small appearances across the Ozarks as we end the month of September. While the vibrant color is still holding off, some of the understory trees will be changing the first week of October.

Fall Foliage Tracker Week #2 (September 27, 2023)
Drury University’s Robert Balek says the sumac has the most vibrant color, “Sumacs are changing brilliantly along the roadside. You’ll see them with reds and purples.”

We can expect the recent warm spell to slow color down, “Especially the warm nights, that is going to delay the fall color. We could still see a nice peak, but it’ll be a little later than usual.”

You may also notice leaves falling a little early. While it’s not completely out of the ordinary, it has more to do with the dry conditions.

“The leaves that are dropping are probably trees that are stressed from drought. They’re starting to have a little of that fall stimulus and they’re just giving up early,” says Balek.

Another causality of the ongoing drought, there are fewer leaves in the trees. The canopies are much less dense this season, compared to a normal year, “We have a decrease in the foliage number in the trees because of the drought,” Balek explains, “We will have fewer leaves in the first place.”

Fall Foliage Tracker Week #1 (September 18, 2023)

Fall color depends on several environmental factors, including weather, wet or dry ground conditions, species of trees, and if the tree is healthy or not.

One surprising fact is the dry weather we’ve been experiencing in the Ozarks could make for better conditions says Balek, “Dry conditions in fall actually enhance fall color. Wet conditions diminish fall color.”

Fall color is starting to show in patches. The first trees you will see turn are typically the nut trees.

“You’re going to see fall colors change first in the nut trees like pecans and walnuts. They’re going to start looking yellow,” explains Balek, “You may even see some leaves drop early on those trees and that’s normal.”

While September is on the dry side overall, recent rainfall and warmer temperatures could slow the peak down. Although, that doesn’t concern Balek, “Mother Nature knows about fall color and how to make it happen.”