Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Why Do Leaves Change Color?

By Mary Emma Allen

As the leaves of autumn take on various colors and paint a spectacular picture across the countryside, we often wonder, "Why do the leaves change color?"

No, it's not because a little elf named Jack Frost flourished a paint brush or the Great Bear, slain by celestial hunters, dripped flood over the forests.

Chemical Changes

This natural phenomenon occurs when the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down. As the green color disappears, the yellowish colors (masked by green during the summer) become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.

Other chemical changes also take place in the leaves and cause the formation of additional pigments that vary from yellow to red to blue. Some of these pigments cause the reddish and purple colors in the leaves while others give the brilliant orange and fiery reds to the trees. The brownish and bronze colors are caused by the mixing of varying amounts of the pigments in the leaf in autumn.

Warm Days & Cool Nights

Warm, sunny days, followed by cool nights, with the temperatures below 45 degrees F. are most favorable for the formation of the brilliant red autumn coloring. During the warm days, much sugar is produced in the leaves but the cool nights prevent it from moving from these leaves. The trapped sugars cause the formation of the red pigment which you see in the maple, dogwood, red oak, sweetgum, sassafras, and others. The amount of color may vary from tree to tree because of each one's direct exposure to the sun. It even may vary on the same tree, for different exposures will cause different colored leaves. Autumn is a colorful season when we can enjoy spectacular scenery across the countryside.

(c) Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Visit Mary Emma Allen's web site for more of her writing and information about her books: http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea; E-mail: me.allen@juno.com. You'll also find more articles at: http://www.valleyfun.com/maryemma.html


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