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Why Some St. Louis Trees Have Yet To Change Colors During This 'Wonky' Fall

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Daria McKelvey
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Missouri Botanical Garden
Horticulturist Daria McKelvey walked around the Missouri Botanical Garden to check on the trees' fall colors on Monday.

This year’s fall foliage looks a bit different from that of past years. Among the golden, warm-toned hues sprucing up the St. Louis region is a noticeable number of green leaves.

That’s because this fall season has been “kind of wonky,” Daria McKelvey said on Monday’s St. Louis on the Air. She’s a supervisor at the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

“We didn't have much rain (in October) and a lot of trees, unfortunately, by the time that they got around to that fall color time, they started dropping their leaves quite a bit,” she explained. “[They] just didn't have enough moisture to pull them through. And so we didn't get to see as much of that fall color that we kind of expect, normally.”

McKelvey added that recent warm weather hasn’t provided the right conditions for leaves to transition colors properly. Trees in the area already hit their most vibrant peak, but some are still holding out, such as the ginkgo trees. Commonly called maidenhair trees, they would have usually turned a uniform golden yellow by mid-October.

“They haven’t changed yet. They're starting to show some yellow color, but I'm not sure if they're going to actually drop their leaves all of a sudden, or even have the opportunity to golden up," McKelvey said. "So I'm still waiting on that. We'll just have to see how the temperatures play out.”

Virtual Garden Tour: October 12, 2020

Last week, the Missouri Botanical Garden highlighted the part of its diverse tree collection that has hit peak fall colors. The rainfall in late October helped extend the peak for some species, specifically maple trees.

“Most of our maples all around are showing some vibrant colors because that rain helped the leaves stay on a little bit longer. And then we had those bright sunny days over the weekends, which helps increase that coloration, and also the cooler nights,” McKelvey added.

Other sources of color on trees include fruit such as crab apples, hollies and winter berries.

“You get these little hints of yellow and red that are popping up right now. And also the birds are having a field day with them in some of our trees, getting kind of a nice snack. So that's something else to focus on while you're walking around,” she said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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