Missouri’s hills might not be alive with the sound of music, but they soon will transition into a kaleidoscope of color. The foliage of trees, shrubs and vines is about to burst into its full glory.

Colors usually peak around the third weekend of October, but Mother Nature is a woman of mystery. According to University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein:

“It’s always questionable until the last minute what will happen. Fall color is like Christmas morning. You don’t know if you are going to get an orange or a lump of coal in your stocking.”

Missouri’s size and diverse landscape make it possible to follow the color from one part of the state to the other. Color changes begin in northern Missouri and move south. Leaves of different deciduous woody plant species turn colors at different times. As a result, fall color in most parts of Missouri lasts from four to six weeks.

Sugar maples are the heavy hitters of fall foliage color. They burst with yellows, golds and reds along limestone bluffs bordering the Missouri River. Other species, such as hickories, yellow poplar and persimmon, light up the landscape with their lush yellows and golds. Not to be left out of the show, oaks add rustic reddish-browns for contrast.

 

Leaf color intensity depends on temperature, light and the availability of water throughout the year. Color-watchers favor a steady supply of mild, sunny days and cool but not freezing nights for the best chance of fall brilliance. Leaves also need some moisture for colors to intensify.