FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -- Lots of questions are coming into the weather center about how the weekend freeze will impact our Fall color in and around Kansas City. The short answer is, it won’t.
We got down to 29 degrees in many areas Saturday morning. Wendy Sangster, who is a Community Forester with the Missouri Department of Conservation, says that’s not cold enough for trees to suddenly drop all their leaves or turn brown. In fact, Sangster says the recent cold mornings are helping to lock in vivid color, especially overnight.
Sunshine activates the sugars in the leaves and the cold air at night traps the color in the leaves. The color change is triggered by a chemical reaction within each leaf. This graphic below should help explain why leaves change color.
Sangster says predicting Fall color is impossible but last year her outlook for Kansas City to have one of the best Autumns of Fall color was spot on. 2018 featured the perfect blend of a late summer dry spell followed by an early freeze and then several days where mornings were cooler than average, and afternoons were full of sunshine and mild temperatures.
Will we see a repeat this year? That depends on several factors. Sunny afternoons will help. Cloudy and cooler afternoons will not help. The changing leaves are a little behind schedule. You can see the slower color change in this picture taken Monday morning.
Despite the later arrival, Sangster says we can still expect a pretty good year, maybe not the best but still a good year. We asked Sangster to give this year a letter grade. Obviously last year was an A+ year. Sangster says this year will probably turn out to be a B.
Why won’t it be as good? You can blame it on potential stain on the way to Autumn splendor. Remember how wet it was this summer? Sangster says all that rain during the growing season caused some fungal leaf disease.
One type of fungus called Anthracnose forms on some Oak Tree leaves. It appears as a powdery mildew. Another fungus is called Tubakia Leaf Spots. The small spots are found mainly on Red Oaks. Both can lead to early browning or early, less dramatic color change in some trees.
According to data from the New England Foliage Fall Map, the Autumn color season is already peaking near the Canadian border. Meantime in eastern Kansas and northern Missouri just patchy color is being reported.
Sangster says patchy should be expected around the Kansas City area this time of year. Our trees and plants tend to change color in phases. For instance, Poison Ivy and Dogwoods turn early. Sangster predicts underbrush such as these plants should have a great color.
The maples, honey locusts, walnuts and hickories could surprise us with a great abundance of oranges and reds as long as the fungal diseases haven’t overspread the leaves. If you’ve got Oak Trees in your yard, you will have to wait for these trees to change color as they typically turn a rusty color later in the Fall season. Sangster says a lot of Oak Trees have taken a hit from the fungal diseases so these colors may be muted.
Again, it will probably be hard to top last year but there is still hope. Fall color is coming on later this year so Sangster says expect a peak in late October continuing into November.
If you take any great pictures this Fall season, please share with us either on our Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram and don’t forget to tag us by using the #StormTrack5.