Colors coming on

thWhile out walking the little dog today I couldn’t help but notice the leaves are changing. I love the visual magic that does a now you see it, now you don’t transformation on the trees. Especially when they slip into their autumn finery overnight.  It’s a gift to the eye.
Would you believe only the basic mechanics of this wonder are known to science? There’s a lot to this process. 

We know a variety of factors figure in to the leaf life of trees, namely environmental influences like temperature, rainfall, and variables of soil nutrients, etc. One major factor in the summer/fall changeover has to do with the steady increase of night. In the northern hemisphere, our days grow shorter and nights grow longer and colder this time of year. Less sunlight inspires certain chemical processes to get involved. All through the growing season, a tree makes chlorophyll for photosynthesis and this chemical makes leaves appear green. In the long cold nights of autumn, the chlorophyll production slows then eventually stops altogether for winter. Once the chlorophyll is no longer a factor, the other chemicals present in the leaves all along can finally be seen. These are the carotenoids (yellows and oranges).

To get those vibrant red colors we love this time of year, the tree needs a perfect blend of circumstances. The most brilliant colors are tied to this favorable mix of a warm wet spring, a moderate summer, and cool and crisp autumn nights followed by warm and sunny days. 

During the fall, leaf veins close and food production begins to shut down for the winter. Deciduous trees need to pump their sap to the roots where freezing winter temperatures can’t harm their delicate vascular system.  Warm sunny days inspire the leaves to produce sugars, but with closing veins there’s no way to send it all to the roots. The anthocyanin pigments come into play when lots of sugars are present in the leaves. This chemical makes the vibrant reds, crimsons, purples, and browns that take your breath away.

thThe seasons change from south to north and from east to west, and that means the east coast of the United States gets the colors first. My husband is speaking in Washington DC in October and we’re driving there to take it all in.
I hope the colors of Appalachia wait for me.
  They did last time.  😀



For 100 days, I’ll post something from my chosen topic: Clichés.
There are 33 entries to come.

Here’s a cliché for today:
As beautiful as the day is long


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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2 Responses to Colors coming on

  1. treknray says:

    I love Fall colors. Unfortunately in Virginia Beach there aren’t that many. On a street we have to travel to get to Ferrell Parkway, a main road, there is about one block that is very colorful. The tree at my house just loses its leaves. Virginia does have its color. The best being at higher elevations.

    One thing I like about the leaves being absent in winter is that there are so many trees that block the view in intersections on residential streets.

    Very nice explanation for the changing colors.

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