In the second and third week of October, as the days get shorter and the temperatures begin to fall, the deciduous trees in Missouri light up with a display of autumn hues.
Despite the extreme drought and heat conditions of the summer of 2012, last fall was particularly spectacular in the southern Missouri Ozarks — the hickories and dogwoods never looked so beautiful.
I am anxious to see what this autumn has in store and looking forward to taking photographs of the fall foliage while hiking the forested hillsides of the Ozarks in the following weeks.
As a photographer of nature, although not all of our native deciduous trees produce "spectacular" fall color, with the right angle of sunlight, I believe all of our native trees are beautiful even if their beauty is subtle.
The following are three native trees whose foliage stands out from the rest in an autumn residential or natural landscape:
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida): Typically, the flowering dogwood adds great long lasting and contrasting purple red color to the Ozark landscape, but last year, the dogwoods' brilliant rich red foliage seemed to rival the red maples.
Naturally found growing as an understory tree in the Ozarks, they usually grow up to 20 feet tall. Dogwoods tend to suffer in hot dry conditions, often causing the edges of the leaves to scorch, damaging their fall beauty; therefore it should be planted in light shade, in cooler soils with a north or east exposure.
Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera): Often commonly referred to as "tulip poplar," this tree can attain heights above 100 feet tall and literally the golden fall foliage stands tall above the forested canopy.
It grows extremely fast, and I watched one seedling in my garden grow around 3-4 feet this year alone.
Tulip trees will grow tallest and have fewer lower branches if grown in a forested setting in deep moist soils. In last year's drought, I periodically watered a large specimen in St. Louis County to prevent damage to the trees roots
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum): A fall foliage article would not be the same without mentioning the magnificent sugar maple. Depending on the cultivar planted, sugar maples are variable in color: ranging from bright yellow to orange to red.
They are very slow growing trees which typically can reach heights of 60 feet or more. Often planted in front of farm homesteads and in park greenways, there are many cultivars out on the market which can add beauty to Missouri landscapes.
One cultivar recommended by the Missouri Department of Conservation is Legacy. Like other cultivars, it is noted for its beautiful yellow orange fall foliage, but is better suited for the hot summers and drought conditions common in the southern Missouri climate.
Page 2 of 2 - Of course there are many other beautiful trees, shrubs and native vines which add diversity to the colors of fall in Missouri. These are only a few of my favorites.
For a more extensive list of the fall foliage colors of Missouri native trees, see the MU publication "Autumn Colors" at: http://extension.missouri.edu/ p/G5010
For those interested in planting a tree this fall, look for next week's Nature's Advocate article which will contain tips on planting trees during the fall season.