ST. LOUIS – With the drop in temperatures expected this weekend and the feel of fall just around the corner, experts at the Missouri Botanical Garden are discussing how the weather will affect the fall foliage.

The leaves have been slow to change colors this year, thanks to a persisting drought we have harbored since this summer.

Daria McKelvey, supervisor for the Missouri Botanical Garden’s home gardening section, says the lack of soil moisture and rainfall has effected the speed at which leaves change colors

“{In order} to get really good fall color, we need bright sunny days and cool nights, and of course, good soil moisture, and that will start to increase the coloration of some of our fall color species,” she said. “It does vary year-to-year when the plants start actually changing in terms of fall color, so right now, because it is so dry, we’re actually seeing a lot {of plants} change a little bit faster than they normally would.”

The Midwest houses some of the best autumn colors due to the change in weather seasons. This is due to chlorophyll! Chlorophyll is the natural compound in plants that gives it a green color. It turns light from the sun into sugar, making a leaf appear green. During fall, we lose more daylight, which strips the natural process of chlorophyll, which in turn, makes the leaf turn a different color (i.e., yellow, orange and red).

Some of the best trees to view in the fall are the Nyssa sylvatica, also known as black gum trees. McKelvey says it is one of the native species in the state. These are the types of trees that develop a very deep, dark red to them. Some of which even take on an orangish/yellow tone to it too.