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Fall colors starting to show in area

While most trees in the area are still green, a few pops of color are visible. Shrubs, like this one west of Park Rapids, turn before trees, according to Park Rapids City Forester Stephanie Pazdernik. (Lorie Skarpness/ Enterprise)

While summer lingers, fall colors are beginning to appear in the area.

Trees at Itasca State Park have a smattering of color, and on Hwy. 34 to Detroit Lakes there are bursts of red in sumac and maples here and there.

According to Park Rapid City Forester Stephanie Pazdernik, signs point to this year's colors being good, but short-lived. Her advice: Get out and enjoy the fall colors while you can.

Yet she also admits that prediction isn't set in stone.

"It all depends on how much rain we get," she said. "If it dries up from now on, you're going to get quick color and it's going to fall fast. If you get lots of moisture, the colors will stay longer and be bright, too. If we get another two weeks that are dry, I think the colors are going to change quickly and then the leaves will drop."

While the area had rain earlier in the summer, Pazdernik said, "August got us dry a little bit and it was hot. I'm thinking we're going to have good color, but it's not going to be very long-lasting."

She explained that bright red and oranges depend on moisture, with duller orange, yellow and browns occurring when conditions are dry.

So why do some trees change colors sooner than others? "I'm going to guess part of the reason some trees turn early is variations in soil," she said.

Pazdernik said there seems to be a "hit-and-miss split" when it comes to rain, which means fall colors may vary from Menahga to Park Rapids to Osage, even though the towns aren't that far apart. "Two Inlets and Itasca may have better colors than we do here in town," she said.

She said those looking to view the fall colors should take a drive and check out area parks.

The Sept. 2 report on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website said Itasca State Park has up to 10 percent of leaves showing color.

The DNR website features a variety of information about when and why leaves change colors, along with a fall color tracker on their "fall colors" page that is updated to show the most current percentage of trees with fall colors.

An article by DNR forest health specialist Val Cervenka explains that weather is the most critical factor in determining whether this year's display of colors will be vibrant or dull. A warm moist summer followed by sunny cool fall days produce the best fall colors.

September weather is also a big factor in how fall colors will play out. If it is too warm, cold, wet or dry, it can slow color change or cause trees to drop leaves before they change color.

The website also features a peak color chart. Far northern Minnesota peaks from mid September to early October, central Minnesota from late September to early October, and southern Minnesota late September to mid October.

According to the DNR website, scattered hints of fall colors are already visible throughout Itasca State Park. Hiking any park trail, driving Main Park Drive or Wilderness Drive or even touring by boat, kayak or canoe are good ways to enjoy the subtle transition from summer to autumn.

Ash trees are just beginning to show hints of yellow. A few basswoods are also beginning to soften to a yellow color. Otherwise, most trees are still displaying their rich green leaves. Shrubs: More color is appearing in the shrub layer. Look for a rich purple-red color in the dogwoods. Hazel are changing to a yellow-gold color.

Ground cover: Colors are evident in the understory. Rich purple hues are seen in the big bluestem. Spreading dogbane are turning yellow and sarsaparilla are turning gold/violet.

Asters and goldenrods are the predominant flowers now. Also look for Joe Pye weed and spotted touch-me-not along lakeshores. Sunflowers are found both deep in the woods and along shorelines.

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