As the heat of summer is starting to fade to the cooler weather of late summer, trees and shrubs around the Show-Me State start the transformation from leaves of green to a fall-foliage color palette of golds, reds, oranges, and purples.Leaves turn colors when two things happen. First, sugars produced by photosynthesis are trapped inside leaves by chilly - but not freezing - autumn nights. Those sugars are the building blocks for red, yellow, orange, and purple pigments. Cool nights simultaneously cause the breakdown of green pigments, allowing these other colors to show through.

A wide variety of trees around the state means Missourians have a fall-color season that can normally last four to six weeks but with the summer-like days that are still with us, the question is will it be extended?

Sassafras, sumac, and Virginia creeper are some of the earliest foliage that changes, some beginning as early as mid-September. By late September/early October black gum, bittersweet, and dogwoods are turning.

The color change starts earliest in northern Missouri and moves southward across the state. The peak of fall color in Missouri is usually around mid-October. This is when maples, ashes, oaks, and hickories are at the height of their fall display. So with the extended summer-like warmth in late September, the colors are slow to fade and the leaves have a few more weeks before they start to drop from the trees.

As we get ready to firmly plant our feet into Autumn, we hope for more warm sunny days and cool nights to provide us with the best color display.