Fall colors are already showing up in Eastern Iowa due to drought

Driving through Eastern Iowa, you've probably noticed a few trees are already turning from green to yellow. Experts blame the ongoing drought.
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 4:24 PM CDT
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EASTERN IOWA, Iowa (KCRG) - Walking along the river in Napoleon Park on the south side of Iowa City you’ll notice a few yellow leaves on the trees and some brown ones strewn on the ground.

Despite what the foliage will tell you, it’s still mid-September.

“Even in mid to late August I was seeing cottonwoods, willows, river birch and others, their inner leaves were starting to turn yellow.” Mark Vitosh, a District Forster with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau, described.

The reason some trees are changing colors early this year is due to the lack of rain this summer.

“If they don’t have that water and that moisture, their systems don’t work very well, so their response, a lot of cases, is to start to shut down and prepare for winter early to give themselves the best opportunity to survive,” Vitosh explained.

The trees that are changing colors, look faded and dry.

“So even on some of the reds on some of the maples and they turn red on the inner part of the leaf, but the edges may start to turn brown and kind of scorched because of the dryness.” Vitosh specified.

Even though the dry conditions are leading to some changes now, the weather in the coming weeks will determine the quality of color we see this year.

“When I hear the forecast for those rainy, cloudy days and fog and stuff like that’s usually not good for production of those reds and purples, but if we have really nice clear days and cool nights, that can set us up sometimes,” Vitosh explained.

Our current dry conditions now, may impact trees for the next few years.

“So when they’re under stress they use their reserves to kind of try to survive and keep their systems going. If they don’t build those systems back up quickly, once the conditions get better, they can still be stressed, but can predispose them to bores, insects, and then different root diseases and problems like that.” Vitosh said.

So enjoy the fall colors in the coming weeks, but hope for the snow greatly needed for spring.

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