Fall is here and is making its presence known. Migrating birds are on the move, and I have heard some geese flying high overhead. The other thing that’s flying (downward, anyway) are leaves. …
Fall is here and is making its presence known. Migrating birds are on the move, and I have heard some geese flying high overhead. The other thing that’s flying (downward, anyway) are leaves. Around my area, it’s the black birch trees that first lose their leaves; bright yellow in the trees. Soon to follow are the oaks and maples; oaks leaves may be brown, yellow or russet, but it’s the maples that really put on a show with bright red or yellow leaves.
The science behind the colorful fall foliage involves chemical compounds produced by the leaves themselves. Chlorophyll is present in leaves during the spring and summer and is responsible for the photosynthesis process that occurs in plants. During the fall, however, chlorophyll production slows, then stops. As chlorophyll levels drop in the leaves, other compounds make their presence known. Carotenoids are a class of compounds that are present all the time in leaves; as chlorophyll levels drop in leaves, the yellow pigment of this compound shows itself. Anthocyanin, another compound, is produced in the fall in response to light and the presence of excess plant sugars. This gives leaves, such as maples, a red hue in the fall.
Eventually, all these compounds break down, and all the leaves turn brown and dry out; most of us know as we have moved enough leaves off the lawn or driveway. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few images taken from the air and the ground of this month’s fall foliage in the area.
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