Have you ever wondered why some years the leaves in Fall seem bright and beautiful and other years they are somewhat muted? Also why do leaves change color at all? Well let me put on my nerd glasses and answer those questions for you.
Normally when a leaf is full of chlorophyll it appears green and masks some of the other coloring chemicals in the leaf. The amount of chlorophyll is determined by the amount of light during the day. As the days get shorter in Fall the leaves produce less chlorophyll and the green starts to go bye-bye.
The magic ingredient which causes the red and orange colors to appear is anthocyanins (trying saying that out loud) which appear when there are higher levels of sugar in the leaf. The sugar levels get ratcheted up when there is lots of sunlight. So weather does in fact have an impact on the red pigment you see in the leaves. The perfect year for vibrant colors is when there are long sunny days and cool nights. Lots of sun will get those sugars flowing and the cool nights will trap it in the leaves.
The leaves always contain a chemical called carotenoid which provides the yellow colors you see. During the summer the leaves are so green you never see that the yellow pigment is present. As the chlorophyll fades away the yellow comes through. If you see lots of yellow leaves you know it’s been a cloudy and cool fall. If you see lots of oranges and reds you know there was lots of sun pumping out that red pigment. When you combine the yellow and red you get the orange pigment.
Ok…enough…I’ll take my nerdy glasses off and clip them back in my pocket protector. From what I’ve seen so far we’ve had perfect weather for a colorful Fall this year. So get your butt outside and send me some pictures!
Colors Are Peaking NOW!!
For those of you in Ohio, our wonderful state has provided a Fall color guide to tell you went it’s time to get outdoors and start taking pictures. Lucky for us almost the entire state is near peak. Northern Ohio starts to see colors first (the cooler, the sooner the leaves change) and then moves south. You can check it out for yourself here: http://consumer.discoverohio.com/autumnadventures/FallColorReport.aspx. Also don’t forget to checkout the ODNR site for fall color scenic driving routes http://fallcolor.ohiodnr.gov/driving.
Update: I’ve come across a video that explains the process as well. It gives yours a visual of the concepts!