The Glory of Autumn: What Causes the Color?

 


Article by: Tom Schneider

The North American Indians greatly respected the land and its fierce animal inhabitants. Deserving the greatest of respect was the bear.

According to Indian folklore, brave hunters in the skies of heaven slew the Great Bear. When it fell in battle, its' red blood rained down from heaven above, coloring the leaves. As the victorious hunters above cooked their prize, fat from the fires , The Garden in Winter dripped to the earth , Landscape Gardening below, coloring the leaves different shades of yellow.

Great story, huh? Though not as poetic, the scientific reason is fascinating nonetheless.

Why Leaves Change , Sculpture Can Bring Life to Your Garden Their Color

Those of us who live in USDA Zone 5 are very fortunate. Even though winter , What Are the Appropriate Plants for My Landscape is often nothing more than endless days of drab, overcast gray light , Tips for Garden Decoration and spring , Backyard Landscaping Ideas To Make A Difference In Your Home bounces from summer-like heat , Tips for Garden Decoration one day to bone chilling cold , Choosing The Appropriate Tree For Your Garden the next and summer , Landscape Gardening is a miserable battle with drought , Tips for Garden Decoration and tropical , Tips for Garden Decoration humidity, the autumn , Why Patio Benches are a Great Place to Relax and Enjoy is always a dancing festival of stunning beauty.

That one gorgeous season , Landscape Gardening makes the frustrating unpredictability of the other nine months minor inconveniences.

How and Why Does This All Happen?

Behind the breath-taking beauty of it all there is a scientific explanation.

Unlike the foliage on evergreen plants, , Abatement Considerations and Common Sense the leaves of deciduous trees , Gardening - Growing Tasty Tomatoes and shrubs , Weathervanes - Monitor your Wind Direction with Beauty! are thin and ill-suited to withstanding the rigors of winter. , Wild Flower Garden - Plan to Plant So Nature , Tips for Garden Decoration devised a method for the elimination of those leaves and decided to make a party of the whole process.

All those glorious colors , Gardening for Wildlife you see every fall , Teak Outdoor Furniture are also there in the spring , Teak Outdoor Furniture and summer, , Texas Drought Well Documented in the Past but you can't see them. Chlorophyll, the green , What Are the Appropriate Plants for My Landscape pigment in leaves, is dominate and masks the other colors , Good Tools and Hard Work is What Creates EyeCatching and Functional Gardens all spring , Water Conservation in the Garden - Use a Rain Barrel to Harvest Rainwater and summer. , Feng Shui in the Garden Chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light , The String Algae Blues from the sunlight that falls , Sculpture Can Bring Life to Your Garden on leaves so the light , Dandelions, Friend or Foe? reflected by the leaves is diminished in red and blue , Learn All About Feng Shui Money Trees and appears green. , Sculpture Can Bring Life to Your Garden

But chlorophyll is not a very stable compound. Bright sunlight causes it to decompose and plants , Learn All About Feng Shui Money Trees are continuously synthesizing chlorophyll to maintain the proper levels. Because this process requires sunlight and warm temperatures, , Use Floating Row Covers to Grow Better Cucumbers Without Spraying it occurs non-stop during the summer. , Creativity with Ponds In autumn, , Use Floating Row Covers to Grow Better Cucumbers Without Spraying as the days become shorter and the temperatures , Why Patio Benches are a Great Place to Relax and Enjoy a little cooler, the synthesizing of chlorophyll gradually stops; chlorophyll begins to break down and the other colors , Best Florists Online gradually appear.

There are numerous reasons accounting for the various colors , Amaryllis Secrets within the leaves of a tree , Gardening Tips, Hints and Advice or shrub. , Best Florists Online When the days of fall , Feng Shui in the Garden bring warm, cloudy and rainy days there tends to be less red in the leaves. Trees , Why Patio Benches are a Great Place to Relax and Enjoy that are protected by shade tend to be yellow, while those exposed to sun , Replacing Tree Blossoms with Hanging Baskets are more reddish in color. , Hot New Sunflowers to Grow

What Makes a Leaf Yellow?

Carotene is another pigment found in the leaves of many plants. , Hurricane Landscaping Considerations This pigment absorbs blue-green and blue light , 10 Tips to Care for Your Antique Ceramics to make the reflected light , Tips about Flower Care appear yellow. When carotene and chlorophyll occur in the same leaf, together they remove red, blue-green, and blue light , Aluminum Sling Patio Furniture. Comfortable Seating for Outdoor Settings from the sunlight falling on the leaf and the leaf appears green. , Wild Flower Garden - Plan to Plant

Carotene functions as an accessory absorber. The energy , What Are the Appropriate Plants for My Landscape of the light , Weathervanes - Monitor your Wind Direction with Beauty! absorbed by carotene is transferred to chlorophyll, which uses the energy , Lawnmower Maintenance Tips That Help Produce The Best Lawns in photosynthesis. Carotene is a much more stable compound than chlorophyll, persisting in leaves even when chlorophyll vanishes. When the chlorophyll is gone the carotene causes the leaf to appear yellow.

Why Are Some Leaves Red?

A third pigment, or class of pigments, that occur in leaves are the anthocyanins. Their reflected light , Replacing Tree Blossoms with Hanging Baskets is red because these pigments absorb blue, , Why Patio Benches are a Great Place to Relax and Enjoy blue-green, and green light. , Hurricane Landscaping Considerations

Unlike chlorophyll and carotene, anthocyanins are not attached to cell membranes, but are dissolved in the cell sap and the color , Tips for Garden Decoration produced by them is sensitive to the pH of the cell sap. If the sap is quite acidic, the pigments impart a bright red color; if the sap is less acidic, its color , Outdoor Living Cleanses The Mind, Body, and Spirit is more purple.

Anthocyanin pigments are responsible for the red skin of ripe apples and the purple of ripe grapes. Anthocyanins are formed by a reaction between sugars and certain proteins in cell sap but this reaction doesn't occur until the concentration of sugar in the sap is quite high. The reaction also requires light. , Amaryllis Secrets This is why apples often appear red on one side and green , Tips for Garden Decoration on the other; the red side was in the sun , What Are the Appropriate Plants for My Landscape and the green , Why Patio Benches are a Great Place to Relax and Enjoy side was in shade.

One More Important Influence

So now that we know all we ever wanted to know about chlorophyll, carotene and anthocyanins, there is one more variable in this fall , Growing Great Strawberries color equation: the weather. , Learn All About Feng Shui Money Trees

The weather , What Are the Appropriate Plants for My Landscape has a profound influence on the range and intensity of autumn , Outdoor Living Cleanses The Mind, Body, and Spirit colors. Low temperatures , Learn All About Feng Shui Money Trees destroy chlorophyll, and, if the temperatures , Good Tools and Hard Work is What Creates EyeCatching and Functional Gardens stay above freezing, promote the formation of anthocyanins. Bright sunshine also destroys chlorophyll and enhances anthocyanin production.

Dry weather, , What Are the Appropriate Plants for My Landscape by increasing sugar concentration in sap, also increases the amount of anthocyanin. So the brightest autumn , Why Patio Benches are a Great Place to Relax and Enjoy colors are produced when dry, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights.
Midwesterner Tom Schneider is a horticulturist, avid gardener and retired arborist. When not gardening , Landscaping Design - The Primary Principles he is assisting his wife, Deb, with their business, Windstar Embroidery. Visit Tom and Deb for embroidered gifts and machine embroidery designs. , Gardening Tips, Hints and Advice

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