The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

October 29, 2013

The long fall: Color still on display as October turns into November

From green to vibrant shades of yellow and red ... the turning of the season has seemingly overnight become visible in trees throughout the region.

In a normal year, it’s a more gradual process, said Jon Skinner, urban forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation in Joplin. This year? The fall foliage is on a delayed schedule. They’re late to the show and will soon make like a tree and, well, leave.

“I’m certain it’s the cold snap we had last week is what has made them (turn),” said Skinner. “In the Lebanon area, their forester there thinks the leaves are already past peak. We’ll be losing them soon.”

The color conversion is the result of less sunlight and cooler nights causing the chlorophyll within the leaves to not work as it should, said Skinner. Yellow shades hidden by the green pigment begin to show through.

And because trees are producing sugars that are trapped in the leaves on cooler nights, many begin showing different combinations of reds, he said.

“The process is usually more gradual, and we don’t have this kind of shock treatment,” Skinner said. “The way it happened (this year) was different.”

Part of his duties includes checking in with foresters in each of the 17 counties in the conservation department’s Southwest region and posting information on the best places for people to view fall color.

According to his most recent report posted on the department’s website, “maples, sumac, black gum and Virginia Creeper are showy now. Hickories, sycamores, oaks, ash and pear vary greatly from some color to finished.”

The forester said that people wanting to get out and see the color change before the leaves quickly begin to brown have several options.

“Believe it or not, the cemeteries have really nice color to them,” said Skinner. “Some of the older sections of Joplin have a lot of maples that have turned. Between Flying J and the Interstate 49 exit, there’s a lot of red to see on all of those red oaks.

“The drive on I-49 south from Neosho into Bentonville (Ark.) is nice, and Roaring River traditionally has nice color.”

Chris Pistole, education director at Wildcat Glades Conservation & Audubon Center, said that he’s noticed the uptick in color in recent days.

The nature center, he said, is also an excellent place to soak in the view. The dogwoods are exhibiting good color, as are hickories and ash.

“We have approximately four miles of hiking trails, and most of it is through wooded landscapes,” said Pistole. “The bluff trail on the west side of Shoal Creek from us gives you a nice view because it’s high up in the tree tops. You can get a real good look at the color from there.”

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