We are fortunate to live in an area where nature puts on one last incredible performance before closing up for a winter rest. As nights lengthen and temperatures drop, the calm green palette of summer foliage turns to dramatic shades of reds, oranges, golds, and browns before the leaves begin to fall.
How does that happen?
For years scientists have tried to understand the changes that occur to shrubs and trees in the fall. It is a complicated process and although not fully understood perhaps a few facts will help.
Temperature, rainfall, and food supply, while having some influence, are not the major factors in the changing colors of autumn. It is primarily the increasing length of night which causes the biochemical processes in the leaves to paint our landscapes.
Where do the colors come from?
In order for color to appear pigment is needed. There are three types that give the array of colors.
• Chlorophyll gives leaves their basic green color and it is necessary for photosynthesis, the chemical reaction that allows plants to use sunlight to manufacture the sugars needed for food.
• Carotenoids produce yellow, orange, and brown colors in plants like corn, carrots, and daffodils.
•Anthocyanins give color to familiar things like cranberries, grapes, blueberries, and cherries.
Chlorophyll and carotenoids are present in the cells of the leaves throughout the growing season. Anthocyanins are produced in fall in response to bright light and plant sugars within the leaf cells. As nights increase in length during the autumn, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops. Eventually all the chlorophyll is destroyed and the pigments that are present in the leaf are unveiled and show the brilliant colors of fall.
Take a moment or an hour or even a day to enjoy the beauty of autumn. It is probably right outside your door!
If you would like to add more color to your fall landscape, stop by Waterloo Gardens where we will help you paint your world!