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Northland conditions call for 'a perfect fall for colors'

Fall colors are brightest with cool nights, sunny days and just a hint of frost.

By: John Myers | September 8, 2019

Already the sumac and ferns and black ash are turning color, along with a handful of maples popping here and there.

As days shorten and nights cool down, the Northland’s leafy forests are making their annual turn toward dormancy, a process — called senescence — that will entertain us for the next month or more.

Barring any major wind or rain storms, forest experts are predicting a good fall color season thanks to just enough rain across northern Minnesota and few insect or disease problems.

A maple tree displays early fall color along Skyline Parkway near Hawk Ridge in Duluth Friday afternoon. (Clint Austin /

“Except for a few areas of the state that saw too much water, it’s shaping up to be a perfect fall for colors," said Val Cervenka, forest health program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Fall should be going out in a blaze of color glory.”

The exceptions are some parts of the Twin Cities and southeastern Minnesota where flooding and standing water may have submerged tree roots too long. That stresses and can even kill trees and will likely impact fall color, Cervenka said. That includes the Twin Cities’ Fort Snelling State Park which remains closed because of prolonged flooding this summer.

“Most everyone else had at least adequate rainfall. It was drier north of Duluth, but it wasn’t a drought. … Healthy trees going into fall are the biggest factor in what kid of color we should expect," Cervenka said. “After that, it’s takes getting some chilly nights, not too much frost, but maybe a light frost, and then not too much warmth as the colors emerge.”

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