Where does our fall color come from?

As we move into our cooler fall months, trees around our area will begin to start a show of fall colors. Our native forest has many oaks, hickory, sycamore, and cottonwood providing muted browns and yellows. If you are lucky, you might see a brightly colored sassafras, black gum, or red oak. In urban spaces, we see a variety of fall color coming from varied species of trees, many of which were planted to shade our streets or give ornament to the front of our home or business. Here is a list of some of the trees with great fall color that you will likely see in our area.

  • red maple
  • sugar maple
  • ginko
  • baldcypress
  • honeylocust
  • red oak
  • sweetgum
  • serviceberry

The colors you see in the leaves during our fall season are always there, but are masked by chlorophyll giving them their green color during the growing season. As our days become shorter and nights cooler, the leaves begin to go dormant and shut down energy production for the winter. The chlorophyll disintegrates allowing the remaining pigments to be seen. Carotene provides golden yellows and anthocyanin the oranges and reds.

Our weather through the summer and fall plays a key role in the brightness of the leaf. The perfect equation for good fall color is consistent rain through the spring and summer followed by dry, cool sunny days into the fall. This is the reason we see so much fluctuation in the colors from year to year. How do you think Kansas City will fare this year?