Much of the country has already begun to notice a gradual loss of daylight over the last few weeks. This serves as a cue to Mother Nature, and ultimately to us, that fall is most definitely just around the corner. On September 23 to be exact.
Soon, residents across the country will experience the annual tradition of driving to remote and mountainous locations to see the changing colors of the leaves in mass.
The vibrant reds, oranges, purples and yellows are common attractions of the autumnal season, inspiring the soul and igniting the spirit. For as author Joe L. Wheeler once said, “There is something incredibly nostalgic and significant about the annual cascade of autumn leaves.”
How leaves change color
So, how does this natural phenomenon of color occur?
Simply put, trees take water from the ground and carbon dioxide from the air, combine it with sunlight and end up with oxygen and glucose. This process is called photosynthesis which means, “putting together with light,” and a chemical called chlorophyll is what makes it all possible. Chlorophyll is also what produces the green pigment in leaves.
As we mentioned above, the days are getting shorter, and when it does, trees become aware that it’s time to get ready for winter. While trees don’t pull their winter coats out of a closet, they do shut down their food-making processes, which means all the chlorophyll is gone for the season.
What most people don’t realize is the colors of yellow and orange have been present in the leaves all year long, but the green chlorophyll is the more dominant during the heart of the season due to photosynthesis. Once the chlorophyll is gone, yellow and orange become the dominant color – coinciding with fall.
As for those reds and purples, they’re caused by leftover glucose in the leaves. When combined with cooler temperatures and sunlight, it turns the leaves red or purple depending on the type of tree.
It’s also worth noting that other environmental conditions play a role in fall leaf colors. “Drought is the enemy of a good fall,” says biology professor Howard Neufeld of Appalachian State University in North Carolina. “The trees have to be in a healthy state, not water-stressed, heading into the season.”
So, if you’re in an area of the country which experienced drought conditions in the summer heading into the fall, the same vibrant colors you’re used to seeing may not be present.
The best times to see fall color
The wonderful people over at the Farmers’ Almanac have compiled a list of probable dates for peak viewing of fall colors. Simply follow this link and scroll down to your appropriate state. While environmental conditions could certainly alter the timing suggested, it gives you an approximate window to plan your weekend getaway into the mountains or forests near your home for this yearly attraction.
For information on fall lawn and tree care, contact SavATree today.