(Fall colour is the result of decay and death) frankly, though interesting it dulls very much the allure and “magic” of the snow nature and its designer put on in the fall for us to see.
Fall is a special and wondrous time but, the magic and marvel of it can be dampened by the dry facts of science as in the article from ATI magazine below.
“The color-changing process is simply magical. But as with most phenomena in the world, there is a thorough scientific explanation of this magic, and consequently as to why leaves change color in the fall. While the leaves in their autumn hues are beautiful, the reason behind their transformationis anything but. We are, in essence, watching the leaves starve themselves and die.“
In the East part of the continent hardwoods, Maple,Oak and Elm thrive and show off the glorious reds,yellows and oranges of Fall. We get the Fall look and feel in the Rockies as well! Perhaps less in reds and oranges but still a stunning piece of “painting up the space” for a brief period of added vibrance.
While the green of the leaves is the default and known look/colour – that is from the heavy dose of green pigment in chlorophyll, the main ingredient in photosynthesis, and the cause of green being the dominant colour of the leaves. But, that heavy green pigment covers over the reds, oranges and yellows which are also present in pigments of carotenoids and flavonoids. While photosynthesis puts together the water, sunlight and carbon dioxide, the things needed for a tree and plant survive.
- In addition to the green pigments of chlorophyll, a plant’s leaves also have yellow and orange pigments in them all the time. Yellow and orange colors are due to pigments called carotenoids, which are also responsible for the color in carrots and in corn.
- But most of the year these other, warmer, colors are masked by the great amounts of chlorophyll in the plant. When temperatures begin to drop and chlorophyll production begins to decline, those other colors are revealed.
- “The color of a leaf is subtractive, like crayons on a piece of paper,” David Lee, who has studied leaf colour since 1973, explains of why leaves change color.
So, it is a sad but true fact that the colours we revel in seeing come fall time are indeed the result of “leaves starving themselves to die”, the decay and death of leaves is preceded by the blaze of colour! The leaves sacrifice themselves so that the sugars produced by them can remain in the body of the tree/plant, and be used to support the tree/plant for the winter – when the temperatures grow cold and the day light grows so short. They sacrifice themselves for the sake of the tree.plant so it can continue to live and grow when spring and warmer temperatures and longer days return.
More from the ATI magazine
- All told, as the leaf shuts down food production for the tree, its many pigments degrade from green to yellow, orange, red, and sometimes purple, until it is brown and dead.
- Some scientists also think that why leaves change colour has something to do with their evolution and is in fact not even that useful to the tree anymore. They posit that the colour may once have been used to attract certain insects, some of which are now extinct:
- “Because plants evolve very slowly, we still see the colours. So leaf colour is a fossil memory, something that existed for a reason millions of years ago but that serves no purpose now,” suggests Bryan A. Hanson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at DePauw University.
- But as with all beautiful phenomena that we witness on this earth, science can only explain so much, and the rest is just pure magic.
For me , I will ponder the “science” of the leaves and needles changing colour but I will focus on the delight, the magic ( of nature and its design ) whenever I get to see the beauty of Fall colors splashed about and bringing added vibrance to the Canadian Rockies and Banff National Park.
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