Fall color explodes in Miss-Lou

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2005

The fall color has been spectacular in the Miss-Lou this year.

A couple of weeks ago I felt as if I were in Appalachia in autumn as the foliage on the trees ranged in color from bright yellow to burnt orange to scarlet.

Today, it seems as if we are getting a second dose of magnificent fall foliage color. I can&8217;t remember a more spectacular autumn season of vibrant hues.

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Crisp, cool days and fall color are definitely an event that we look forward to in the Deep South although it&8217;s our northern neighbors that really seem to benefit yearly from the joy. Tourism in autumn is big business in states such as New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts, due in a big part to the fact that people flock to these places to see the splendor of nature.

Because autumn is a great time to plant trees and shrubs in your landscape, why not write down a few notes regarding your favorite fall foliage species. Many deciduous species are known for their colorful and changing appearance, including beautiful bark and form. Take an afternoon drive soon for ideas regarding new plants to highlight your fall landscape.

Beautyberry, summersweet clethra and forsythia are good shrub selections for fall color in the yellow range.

Spiraea and blackhaw viburnum turn lovely shades of orange to red, while oakleaf hydrangea, sumac, Virginia willow and rabbit-eye blueberry leaves are transformed to deep red to maroon or even purple.

Trees that are prized for their autumn show include ginkgo, pawpaw, Eastern redbud and the shagbark hickory-all for their yellow to gold foliage.

Incorporate crape myrtle, sassafras and American hornbeam for orange shades; Japanese maple, flowering dogwood and downy serviceberry for stunning red shades; and bald cypress, dawn redwood and willow oak for bronze colors.

Of course, as this fall has shown, this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as fall foliage choices.

The differences observed from year to year concerning fall color are due to several environmental factors. In fact, the same species can have remarkable contrasts in their autumn foliage due to several influences.

Most deciduous trees and shrubs are actively growing for only a short period each year, beginning as the days become longer and temperatures rise in late winter. Their annual growth is usually complete by June.

When the leaves have expanded to their mature size, the plants begin to manufacture and store carbohydrates in their branches, buds and roots for the next growing season.

As the days become shorter in late summer and fall, the lack of light and cooler temperature influence further changes in the foliage.

Soil moisture also plays an important role in the production of colorful fall leaves.

Scientists have basically figured out most of the elements involved in the process and even know what causes individual pigments to form.

As a watcher of fall foliage, I simply look forward to the visual show and enjoy the cool temperatures of autumn&8217;s last hurrah.

Traci Maier

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