Autumn’s paintsPublished 6:59pm Saturday, September 22, 2012
Fall colors coming early
Autumn is falling across southern Minnesota a bit on the early side this September.
A summer baked in dry conditions is causing small pockets of trees or turn colors already.
By Sept. 18, leaves across the county were beginning to turn, with parts of the western parts of the county already reaching 10 to 25 percent of their peak. The eastern part of the county was only 0 to 10 percent to its peak.
Already by Sept. 12, Executive Director Larry Dolphin said some of the trees were beginning to change at the Jay C. Hormel Nature Center, but he said some of that was due to the drought, and not the autumn.
Dolphin said the autumn brings a busy season to the Nature Center, partly because it’s a good season for people to walk and hike with the cooler weather.
“People are more likely to get out to enjoy the fall colors,” he said.
Like spring, Dolphin said fall is one of the busiest seasons for events at the Nature Center.
“That’s prime time for us typically,” he said.
The dry conditions could be a positive for this fall’s colors. Dolphin said autumns with dry weather and cool nights around 40 degrees typically produce the best variety of fall colors, while wet autumns slow the changing and dull the colors.
Typically around this area, the prime time for the leaves turning is early to mid-October.
Some state parks in Minnesota are reporting fall colors reaching 25 to 50 percent of their peak. Parks in southwestern Minnesota have all reported that between a quarter and half the parks’ fall colors had been reached.While dry conditions may fuel vibrant fall colors, many trees at the Nature Center are showing signs of stress from the dry conditions.
Dry weather is playing a role in early fall color this year, as more than half the state is considered abnormally dry or in some level of drought, according to a report last week from the U.S. Drought Monitor.
Dolphin said he and other staff have watered new trees near the Nature Center buildings and some maples for syrup tapping, but other trees in the forest are being affected and some could die from the drought.
“Out in the woods, it’s just a natural process of life and death,” said Dolphin, who noted there are too many trees in the woods to water.
A DNR map of fall colors can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html .
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.