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The height of leaf peeping

Next week thought to be prime time for local fall leaf coloring


A summer of consistent rainfall means trees are primed for a fall color show on par with most years.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources central region forester Andy McGuire, based out of St. Paul, said trees rely on consistent rainfall and temperature to keep the process of photosynthesis going. When they thrive all year, the carotenoids and anthocyanins — two of four main groups of biochemicals responsible for the colors we see in tree leaves — ”really pop” as the leaves begin to change.

Carotenoids are responsible for many of nature’s yellows and oranges, and anthocyanins are responsible for reds and purples in leaves, according to the DNR’s Fall Color Finder.

McGuire said he believes next week to be prime time for leaf viewing in the area. The Fall Color Finder’s time frame for most of southern Minnesota’s peak colors is from late September to mid October. As of now, between 50% and 75% of the trees have begun to change and are changing.

“This time of year down south is definitely when they should be turning,” McGuire said.

Consistent, colder temperatures can also help the trees change, as that cold triggers the trees to know that fall is coming, he said.

Sumac leaves provide pops of red in a palette of varied yellows at Myre-Big Island State Park. – Sarah Kocher/Albert Lea Tribune

“Without those cold temperatures, they’ll still change, but maybe not as consistently together,” McGuire said.

A hard freeze, on the other hand, can have a negative effect on fall color, rushing the tree to brown.

“The hard freeze will really kind of just trigger that tree to shut down rather than changing slowly,” McGuire said.


Reds, yellows and oranges — oh my!

The DNR tracks fall color viewing for Minnesota’s state parks. Below are some area state parks and their current state of color as reported on the DNR’s Fall Color Finder website.

Myre-Big Island State Park

• Open spots around Albert Lea Lake provide a panorama of turning trees.

• The one-mile Big Island Trail will showcase the maple and basswood trees in the park.

• Maples are on display at the picnic grounds and White Fox campground.

Minneopa State Park

• The oak and aspen trees are turning. Yellow and orange feature.

• The observation platform can give visitors a peek at trees across the lake.

Rice Lake State Park

• The trees are beginning to turn, though silver maple, ash and walnut trees have begun dropping their leaves.

• Staff recommends heading to the Minneopa Creek falls, picnic area, River Bluff Trail, Seppmann Mill Trail, bison range and hiking trails.

A maple loses its leaves at the White Fox campground in Myre-Big Island State Park. – Sarah Kocher/Albert Lea Tribune


About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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