Changing leaves in the Ozarks is not a sign of early fall

Ongoing dry weather stressing area trees
Published: Aug. 25, 2020 at 4:47 PM CDT
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You may have noticed leaves changing and even falling off some trees. and you might think fall is starting a bit early, but it’s not a sign of fall at all. Some of the trees in the area do look like they’re changing. But unlike cool weather that sparks the change in autumn, these trees are changing due to a lack of water.

“Leaves are starting to crinkle,” began Botanical Garden Director Katie Keith. “The blooms are stopping, the walnuts are falling of early are some of the things we’ve noticed already.”

It’s been quite hot and dry over the last few months. In Springfield, rainfall since June 1st is over six inches below normal. But even though we’re getting later in the year, this doesn’t mean the drought conditions are causing an early start to fall.

“You would see this just about any time of year, their response to drought,” said Keith. “They’ll start to lose their leaves, and start to color up a little bit just as a sign that they’re stressed out. It’s just the sign of them stopping photosynthesis makes the colors brighten up, some of those hues in the leaves that you might be noticing that seem like an early fall.”

There is some rain in the forecast, which could help green plants right back up.

“As long as the moisture stayed consistent,” said Keith. “I mean we still probably have 10 to 12 weeks of potentially non-freezing, growing weather that you could still see, you know, some substantial comeback on your plants.”

Now if overall dry conditions persist, that may lessen the fall colors a bit when they do arrive. For now, though, the drought is giving a small glimpse of some of that color.

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