BEMIDJI, Minn. – Fall colors in Minnesota can be “leaf” Some people are feeling let down this autumn season.
According to Val Cervenka, the Minnesota Department of Forest Health Program Coordinator, those brilliant bright reds, bright oranges and golden yellows we’ve come to expect across the state, once the days get shorter and chilly silence, can appear and here Even this year may reveal itself prematurely. of natural resources.
The change is due to the state experiencing its worst drought since 1988, which has caused stress for trees and plants during the growing season. Some trees respond to drought stress by skipping a change in fall color altogether, while the leaves of other trees turn brown and drop more quickly than usual.
Cervenka explained that trees continually lose moisture from their leaves, but when in drought, many shed them to conserve moisture. They will become inactive as soon as possible in the fall to conserve stored energy, which will result in them being distracted from their color display.
“Dry fall makes colors appear early and also dulls them, so we can expect to see less brightness this year,” Cervenka said. “Trees need to be healthy in fall for good color. If they aren’t healthy — if they are stressed by lack of water — they’re not going to produce those colors.”
early color fall
Fall colors in Minnesota typically peak from mid-October to mid-October, beginning in the northernmost part of the state and working south.
However, the DNR launched its annual Fall Color Finder map two weeks ago this year, as some trees were already turning up in August due to drought. The map shows the percentage of leaves in their peak color across the state and will be updated weekly through October.
Cervenka, who lives in St. Paul, said it’s difficult to predict how autumn will (or won’t) develop across the state this year. For example, she has already seen foliage fall in the Twin Cities for weeks, but recently visited the Gunflint Trail along the North Shore and noticed very little color change.
In a typical year, peak fall color lasts about two weeks, but can vary widely depending on location, altitude, and season. Additionally, trees at higher altitudes are the first to show color changes.
“Peak length really depends because if there’s a big thunderstorm or thunderstorm at any of these places, the leaves can fly away because they’re ready to go anyway,” Cervenka said. “When leaves are changing color, there is a layer of cells where the leaf attaches to the twig and that layer of cells enlarges, causing the leaf to eventually drop.”
Where to See Fall Colors in Minnesota?
In places where the US Drought Monitor records a D4-level (the highest and most severe level), Cervenka predicts that much of the fallen foliage will be buried by the drought.
And even if it rains throughout September in drought-prone areas, it will still be too late to help the trees. The effects of the drought won’t even be known until next year — perhaps even further, Cervenka said.
“If the leaves are already brown, they won’t back down. Trees that are under stress are going to be under stress. We have to rain a lot from now until frost to get the trees out of stress,” said Cervenka Said. “But if it does, it’s more a question of whether these trees will make it through the winter, whether these trees will be able to recover well enough for good fall color.”
Yet, for now, she stresses that by milking this season’s sour lemons, leaf peepers are still able to make lemonade — just deep enough to see the vibrant pockets of color spilled on dry spots. must be observed; Or a trip to a new and unlikely place where the conditions are better.
“When the turning point happens, I think it’s going to be more looking to find pockets where the trees have enough moisture, like around lakes or ponds,” Cervenka said. “I’m trying to paint a picture of going out and being surprised by some great patches of color. Be prepared for a nice surprise because instead of thinking that everything won’t be worth it this year or going out Is. “
Some of the more drought-tolerant trees native to Minnesota can be spared and give a pop of color this season, he said. These include oak, hackberry, eastern red cedar, honey locust, elm and catalpa. Prairie grasses and wildflowers may prove to be the stars of the show in some areas, he said, as they are not as affected by drought because of their deep water-seeking roots.
Cervenka expects tamarinds in northern Minnesota to still turn yellow and the deciduous species to turn a “beautiful golden hue” that will contrast with spruce and pines.
“It’s one of the most beautiful things in that area,” Cervenka said.
Head south to fall color
But the region she hopes will be a major fall color destination is the southern part of the state, as some of its counties have been made drought-free this year. She noted the irony of this because most leaf-peepers travel north—especially to the north coast—to see the foliage falling.
“From everything I’ve heard, southern and southeastern Minnesota could potentially be a great destination this year — kind of a contrasting destination, if you will,” Cervenka said. “I would really head to the forests of the southern state as there are some of the best drives that people can take.
For example, when you drive along the state’s eastern border toward Highway 61, I think people will find that they are pleasantly surprised by some beautiful autumn colors this year.”
While Cervenka doesn’t expect the fall in northern Minnesota to be very meaningful this season, she said she doesn’t want to deter people from moving to areas like the North Shore.
“I don’t want to turn people away from going to a state park because there’s still going to be stuff out there, but I wouldn’t consider it to be my destination (North Coast) for fall colors,” Cervenka said. “I would say go to your favorite parks and be prepared to be surprised when there is good color. Then try to enjoy being on the shore or on the lake, or just outside. There are so many more things to enjoy.”
He said if someone visits that area this fall, they can expect to see turning sumac as well as prairie grass and native wild flowers along the shore.
“If you’re near a lake or a vista, no matter whether the fall colors are dull or not, it’s always going to be beautiful because you have that blue water,” Cervenka said.
He also suggested looking for places with “a lot of changes in topography and hills” as different types of trees grow at different altitudes.
“This contrast usually provides some nice fall color,” Cervenka said.
Despite this being an unusual fall for leaf-peeping in Minnesota, Cervenka encourages people to get outside and explore the state to see what colorful surprises they can discover. She said it’s an opportunity to use your other senses—rather than just sight—to appreciate the outdoor experience of autumn.
“You can still enjoy the smell of the leaves and everything that fall has to offer,” Cervenka said. “I’d hate to tell people to clean it all up and go ahead and do our bit. Instead, try a different parka this year and see what you get. It’s like making lemonade out of lemons. “