Monday, October 26, 2015


This is the view from my patio the week of October 15th

The Missouri Ozarks are amazing regardless of the season. We span 3 temperature ranges which spell some different weather patterns for us throughout the year and even more so in the fall. While September spells autumn for many in other areas of the country, September is still ‘summer’ for us. The light is waning but the daily temps are still in the upper 80s to mid 90s (by contrast, July and August are traditionally upper 90s to a little over 100) and the grass is still lush and green and we’re still mowing the lawn weekly. We’re still running the AC daily. The rivers and lakes are still warm enough to swim in despite Labor Day closures of the pools the rivers still have plenty of swimmers. But the temperatures are dropping and we are losing daylight.

Purples and pinks-Ceil Abbott
By the latter part of September, the walnut trees start coloring up in their yellow fall finery. They are the first to lose their leaves. The last week in September and first week in October is when many of the vines, shrubs, berry plants and under story trees start showing signs of fall color. My area is home to over 200 plant species and most display fall colors. An Ozark foliage turn doesn't happen as quickly as the color change in northern states. Here, in the Ozarks, we have two color peaks in the foliage.

There is the false peak which usually happens between October 14-20th. False Peak is when you see the most intense color and the widest range of colors you'll see scarlet, deep mahogany, purple, black, blue, and multiple shades of gold. We have what you would call a 'slow turn' in foliage. It usually starts in the river and creek bottoms and then progresses up the hills. By the time peak color appears on the hillsides most of the trees along the rivers wil have long since peaked and dropped their leaves.

True peak will always occur during the last few days of October and the first few days of November, typically from October 26 to November 5th, give or take a few days. Peak foliage is highly dependent upon weather conditions. It takes clear sunny days with temperatures no warmer than mid 60's, and cooler nights with temperatures no higher than the high 30's to mid 4'0s, with a few nights in the 50's. This year true peak is a bit slow because it's been warmer during the day which delays the turn a few days. True peak colors are limited to the oranges, yellows, and mahogany hues. We have 36 species of oak here and each group had their own time table for turning and variations of colors.

The weather is giving its last hurrah before the onset of the cold here in South Central Missouri.  The days are very warm and sunny and the nights are jacket cool. Other than the trees we do have several more, not so pleasant, ‘signs’ of the coming cold weather. The wasps are invading my Mums and basking on the western side of the house. Nasty things. Another is the Woolly Bear caterpillars which are crawling everywhere—on the patio, up the sides of the house, on trees and shrubs, and in the yard. Weather is still warm so I’m usually barefoot and though I try to avoid them there are so many that I can’t help but step on some. Ewww.

Then there are the Asian lady bugs. They’re wonderful for taking care of aphids and such in the summer gardens but mid-October they start swarming and looking for a warm place to winter and that usually is inside my house or swimming in my coffee cup. Ugh. And they bite. I was lying down resting in the bedroom yesterday and happen to glance up to the ceiling. I counted 20 above my head. I decided to go rest in the recliner in living room. Dan cleared them out of the bedroom and he’s done this for several days, so I can sleep. Last thing I wanted was falling lady bugs. Did I mention they can bite?

While the Missouri Ozarks are gorgeous in the autumn when it comes to signs of fall and winter there are some I love and some I don’t. I’m not particularly squeamish when it comes to insects, except maybe ants, but I have to say I much prefer the fall foliage, migrating birds, and the changing of the angle of the sun and all the richness of light and shadow, to swarming insects looking at my house as their winter paradise.

Photos courtesy of Missouri Department of Conservation, Ceil Abbott, and personal pictures.