click to enlarge Washington Park in a more colorful year. - PHOTO BY KAREN WITTER
Washington Park in a more colorful year.

It's that special time of year in the Midwest when we are treated to the beauty of trees turning vibrant shades of red, yellow and orange. As temperatures and daylight hours drop, so does the production of chlorophyll which allows the carotenoids in the leaves to reveal their colorful pigments. With the onset of fall, anthocyanins are produced as a result of sugar being trapped in the leaves' veins. The proportion of all these pigments determines the color, and different tree species have different proportions.

Predicting the vibrancy of fall colors is not a precise science, but October is projected to be the best time to view fall colors in the Land of Lincoln. For up-to-date information check out the Fall Color Report, a joint initiative of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and Illinois Office of Tourism. Information is posted weekly and includes what's being seen that week and the best places to view fall colors in four different regions of the state

Guy Sternberg of Starhill Forest Arboretum in Petersburg explains that our colors typically last a long time because we have a diversity of tree species, and they turn color sequentially. Cottonwoods and sumacs change color early, then maples, followed by hickories, then oaks and other species. Weather has a big impact on fall color, and each type of tree has its own reasons for coloring. Sternberg says this year's extreme fluctuating weather and insect and disease outbreaks may make many trees less vibrant. To best enjoy fall colors, visit sites with a lot of species diversity, and return multiple times to witness the changes as each species takes its turn revealing its unique hue.

Illinois Times has provided readers with independent journalism for more than 40 years, from news and politics to arts and culture.

Now more than ever, we’re asking for your support to continue providing our community with real news that everyone can access, free of charge.

We’re also offering a home delivery option as an added convenience for friends of the paper.

Click here to subscribe, or simply show your support for Illinois Times.

Got something to say?
Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

Comments (0)

Add a comment

Add a Comment
  • "Voices and Votes"

    @ Jacksonville Area Museum

    Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Continues through Dec. 22