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Discover Nature: Autumn in Missouri Woods

Bright orange sassafras leaves stand on short trees above a forest floor blanketed by brown leaves. Forested background in green, red, and yellow leaves.
Sassafras leaves turn bright orange and yellow in fall. Autumn offers one of the most colorful times of year to get outside for a nature hike or fall float trip.

This week on Discover Nature, get outside and enjoy a show of fall foliage, fruits, fungi, and flowers.


Fall color in Missouri’s trees has been off to a slow start, with much green remaining on the landscape. But, with cooler temperatures and waning daylight hours, chlorophyll – the compound that makes leaves green – is breaking down, revealing pigments that have been hidden all summer. 


In central Missouri, mulberries, maples, elms, and sycamores are taking on vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Many persimmons have already lost their leaves, revealing abundant, orange fruits hanging on bare twigs. 


In northeast Missouri, cold winds have caused more leaves to fall, but dogwoods, sumacs, and tree vines still display brilliant reds, while cottonwoods, walnuts, hickories, mulberries, catalpas, and buckeyes are steadily yellowing. 


Among the mosaic of colors, keep an eye out for late-season wildflowers, such as asters and goldenrod, bright green mosses and lichens, and a fall forage of fruits, nuts, and mushrooms like puff balls and chicken-of-the-woods. 


Exercise caution when spending time in nature this fall, as colder weather moves in and hunters share more of our natural areas. But don’t miss out on one of the most beautiful seasons for a nature hike or fall float trip in Missouri. 


Find weekly regional updates on fall color including hotspots where you can find great opportunities to get out and take in the seasonal splendor with the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Fall Color Reports online, and learn more about different species of trees, mushrooms, and flowers you’ll find in the fall with the MDC online field guide


Discover Nature is sponsored by the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Kyle Felling was born in the rugged northwest Missouri hamlet of St. Joseph (where the Pony Express began and Jesse James ended). Inspired from a young age by the spirit of the early settlers who used St. Joseph as an embarkation point in their journey westward, Kyle developed the heart of an explorer and yearned to leave for adventures of his own. Perhaps as a result of attending John Glenn elementary school, young Kyle dreamed of becoming an astronaut, but was disheartened when someone told him that astronauts had to be good at math. He also considered being a tow truck driver, and like the heroes of his favorite childhood television shows (The A-Team and The Incredible Hulk) he saw himself traveling the country, helping people in trouble and getting into wacky adventures. He still harbors that dream.
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