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This year’s extended fall color season has been atypical. Many trees still have green leaves, which would have fallen by now most years. Day length and cooler temperatures are major cues signaling leaf drop. There probably hasn’t been enough accumulation of cooler weather to trigger the typical senescence process. Plenty of fall color is still lingering in northeast Iowa. The oak trees are just starting to turn colors.
Ash and walnut trees are dropping their leaves. The oaks are still green. Silver maple, grape vine, and some cottonwoods are starting to change to a yellow tint. The maples are getting close to being fully red. There are not many vibrant colors, but if you look across the landscape there will be one or two that pop out.
Fall color will be at its peak in central Iowa this week. Sugar maples and oaks are turning orange and red. Black maple, ash, hickory, and poplar are yellow right now. Hackberry and others are lime green. White pines have bright yellow interior needles. There are still nice maroon & burgundy colors from roadside shrubs and bright red Virginia creeper vines on trees.
The landscape view in SE Iowa is still mostly green. Some yellow/brown are showing up in landscapes with hickory, elm, cottonwood, and sugar maple. White ash is showing some purple. Urban maple is showing a few brighter reds and oranges. Sumac, Virginia creeper, and poison ivy are showing some reds. Oak is still mostly green.
There is nice color along field edges, river bottoms, and woodland edges. Sumac and ivy are bright red, walnut and cottonwood are yellow and falling, and native grasses and forbs are showing muted tones of gold, purple, and bronze. Upland landscapes where oak dominate are still mostly green, but there are pops of color with shagbark hickory turning bronze and declining ash turning yellow. Hard maple is at peak color in the urban landscapes.
Nights are still warm which has slowed color changes. Strong winds last week removed many of the reds and pinks seed on shrubs. Yellows are just starting to appear on our bottomlands in the Missouri River Corridor. Our oaks don’t appear to be showing any color yet, but likely should by the end of the week.
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Fall is often one of the best times in Iowa, with warm days and cool nights, low humidity, very few insects and the brilliant autumn colors of our trees.
Every year, thousands of Iowans and visitors flock to the countryside to view nature's colorful display of red, orange, yellow and purple leaves.
Fall Color - Legend and Facts
Ash: Green ash leaves turn yellow, but white ash has a purplish cast. The leaves fall after those of walnut trees, but earlier than those of oaks and maples.
Elms: Elm leaves turn various shades of yellow with some turning brown before falling, others falling while still yellow.
Hickory: Leaves turn yellow on hickory trees, then brown before falling.
Maple (Soft): The leaves of soft (silver) maples turn yellow but do not turn brown before falling.
Maple (Hard): Brilliant flame red hues are the signature of hard maple leaves. The red pigmentation of some leaves breaks down before falling.
Bur Oak: Buff to yellow colors predominate in bur oaks. The leaves remain on the tree and turn brown before falling.
Oak (Red): The red oaks have brilliant red leaves in fall though the color is probably not as intense as that of some hard maples.
Oak (White): White oaks have a more subdued purple fall leaf color. The leaves then turn brown and often stay on the tree until new leaves begin to grow in the spring.
Printable Fall Colors State of Iowa Map