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Posts Tagged ‘changing leaf color in autumn’

Every year, I am asked how and why the leaves change to such brilliant colors. It’s a fascinating corner of nature.-2

It is the one thing I truly miss in Seattle, having moved from northern New Hampshire where the autumn color is spectacular!  It can take your breath away, and for “Leaf Peepers” (as they are called in New England) it truly does!  I’ll share a few  photos my husband took VERY close to our previous home.

Here is  an excerpt from an article written by Richard Busch, former editor of National Geographic Traveler. It does a fine job of explaining why leaves change color in the fall.

“…Essentially, leaf colors begin to change because chlorophyll–a substance that makes them green–begins to diminish as a result of shorter days and cooler weather. As daylight shortens, the growth system in many trees begins to shut down. Tiny cells at the base of each leaf, known as the abscission layer, begin to dry out, chlorophyll dissipates and the photosynthesis process comes to a halt.-4

The colors that now begin to emerge are actually present in the leaves all year long; they are pigments masked by the chlorophyll during the warmer months. The yellows of such species as birch, aspen and hickory are caused by carotene, the same pigment that gives color to corn, carrots and egg yolks. The autumn reds and maroons in sugar maples, sumac and other species derive from the pigment anthocyanin, formed from sugar compounds stored in the leaves. This chemical’s effect on color depends on the acidity or alkalinity of the tree. Red maples, which are more acidic, turn red; ash trees, being alkaline, become purplish. …”

So there you have it.  You can now tell all your friends that you KNOW why, and how leaves change color.  I guarantee you will use this information, because it is asked EVERY year at around this time!

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