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Peak of fall foliage in southern Illinois

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:49 PM CDT
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VIENNA, Ill. (KFVS) - Some trees are beginning to show color as fall-like temperatures roll back into the area.

“Fall colors are a little slow creeping into the Shawnee Hills this year,” said Shawnee National Forest employee Sue Hirsch.

Hirsch said we are close to the beginning of the peak.

“I would say another two weeks will be in peak or close to it,” she explained in October.

Hirsch said this year’s fall foliage is a bit later than normal. She said the fall temps in the evenings help.

“We are experiencing cooler temps at night, which is helping with progressing the fall colors, that will really trigger the trees to change,” said Hirsch.

According to Justin Dodson, a silviculturist with the Shawnee National Forest, trees respond to these shorter sun-soaked days and longer nights by cutting their production of food supplies. Chlorophyll gives leaves their green appearance and is essential in the photosynthesis process where trees convert sunlight to a usable food source.

Once this process slows or stops, chlorophyll is no longer produced and the green color fades, giving way to other pigments not visible during the growing season.

The pigmented colors exhibited during fall varies by tree species and their ability to capture resources prior to winter dormancy.

Now, you may have your favorite place to see the fall colors, but Hirsch said all across the forest is a great place to view the leaves changing.

“Most of the places in the Shawnee are very enjoyable this time of year. If they want to do some short hikes there’s always Garden of the Gods, Rim Rock and Little Grand Canyon. But If they want to do some kayaking and longer hikes, places like this at Dutchman Lake,” said Hirsch.

Hirsch also explained how different species of trees show their fall colors earlier than others.

“Another thing about the fall colors is that you’ll have trees that turn earlier. Like our sumac and dogwoods, those are smaller trees but those are the bright red, red that you see along the roadway. You’ll have certain species like elm and some of the maples they’ll start turning a little earlier than other species,” Hirsch said.

And you can expect to see more people touring the forest.

“It’s just a great time of the year to come visit the Shawnee, there’s such a verity of things to do,” said Hirsch.

Hirsch said heavy rainfall could cause the leaves to fall before they change color, so hopefully the leaves will stay on the trees after this weekend’s rain.

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