The Fall Leaves are Falling

If you haven’t already noticed, the leaves are changing into their beautiful fall colors, and many have already fallen to the ground. Do you know why the leaves change color in the fall? There are a couple of things happening as the days shorten, and the fall nights get cooler. The production of the large amounts of food, or sugars the plant was making throughout the summer begins to slow down. The chloroplasts that make this food are what gives plants their green color. Once these cells shut down, the green color on the leaves slowly fades away. What is left are some other pigments that have likely been in the plant the whole time, but masked by the powerful chlorophyll. These pigments called anthocyanins, and give a nice red or purple color. Other pigments form other common fall colors. The orange colors come from carotene and the yellows from xanthophyll, other common plant pigments. This year we have had perfect weather for brilliant fall colors. Dry weather with warm sunny days, and cool nights enhance this process, and therefore enhance the colorful pigments we see. The leaf ‘stem’, or petiole is also going through a change this time of the year. There are certain cells that are found where the leaf attaches to the tree that start to break down, and eventually the leaf falls off. That’s when our job begins (after we enjoy the color of course), and raking and bagging leaves become a big part of our fall clean up. Hopefully you have had the chance to get out and enjoy the beautiful fall we have had!