Fall in love with fall colors

A pile of leaves in Central Park provide a wide variety of fall colors. (Caitlin Yamada/ The Union)
A pile of leaves in Central Park provide a wide variety of fall colors. (Caitlin Yamada/ The Union)

WASHINGTON — Fall is one of the most colorful seasons in Iowa.

Reds, oranges and yellows are scattered throughout the trees.

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, Washington County residents can enjoy these beautiful colors throughout October in their own backyards.

In southeast Iowa, black walnut, silver maple, elm and cottonwood are showing color, according to an Iowa Department of Natural Resources Fall Color report.

The report was release Monday and details a description of the fall color as well as the peak viewing timeline.

“Roadsides are showing some purple and reds from dogwood, wild plum and poison ivy,” according to the report.

The area has mostly yellows, tans and browns scattered through the trees, said Washington County District Forester Ray Lehn.

There are many theories and speculation as to why autumns are filled with brilliant colors. The following theories come from an Iowa DNR “Autumn in Iowa” document.

One theory says it is because of the warm, sunny days and cool nights. Another says it is because of the length of days.

“Others are that it is related to frost, or maybe, the existence of wood elves,” according to the DNR.

Though many of these theories are true to an extent, a misconception is that the color is due to the leaves dying.

“The development of fall colors is an active process and trees must be alive to undergo the change in color and to drop their leaves,” according to the DNR.

Lehn said the compound chlorophyll is responsible for giving plants their green color. As the tree starts to go into winter dormancy, the manufacturing of chlorophyll is slowed. This allows the other colors in the leaves, such as yellows and reds to show.

Many trees have started this process early because of the drought, said Zach Rozmus, director of Washington County Conservation.

People interested in seeing a wide variety of colors don’t have to travel far outside of their own neighborhood.

Many different reds, oranges and yellows can be seen in towns but not in forests, said John Byrd, district forester at Shimek Forest. This is because urban areas have more hybrids with a variety of colors.

At Marr Park the best time to view the colors will be in two to three weeks, Rozmus said. The peak time to view in the area is Oct. 15 through the 22.

The fall color report is updated each week and Byrd said it is a good place for people to keep track of when to see certain trees change colors.

Though the color change is exciting, Rozmus said it signifies the kick off of a different season for activities such as hunting and hiking rural trails.