With Halloween candy lining the store shelves already, it is difficult to miss the ever fast approaching fall season. The bold shades of fall leaves ensure buckets of brightly wrapped candies are not the only colors we see during autumn. Have you ever wondered why or how leaves change their colors every fall? You no longer have to be curious, as we are here with the answer.
Leaves are responsible for producing the tree’s food through the process of photosynthesis, which is the absorption of sunlight’s energy and turning it into nutrients. Each leaf has several pigments within its cells including chlorophyll, which plays a vital role in photosynthesis and provides the green color of a leaf. Other pigments include carotenes and xanthophyll, which represent yellow and orange colors. Anthocyanin or red pigments are also present. During the spring and summer months, the tree is kept so busy producing food the only color visible on its leaves is the bright chlorophyll green, while the other pigments stay hidden.
This bright green color eventually changes as the temperatures begin to drop and the nights become shorter. During this period, chlorophyll starts breaking down, allowing the other pigments to show through. The intensity of these colors is determined by weather conditions. Sunlight, temperature and amount of rain will help establish the concentration and duration of fall’s colors, with overcast and rainy days strengthening them the most. As the leaf colors change, the tree is busy developing cells that will gradually sever the tissues that support and connect the leaf to the tree, thus, making the leaf fall off.
Not all trees change their leaf colors or lose their leaves. Southern states or those with mild winter temps can have trees full of green leaves year-round. Lucky for the rest of us, the color show is about to commence. With autumn forthcoming, take a look around and savor the season’s finest colors.