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Why leaves Change Colors in the Autumn (in Layman's terms)

Updated on October 19, 2011

Autumn Magic

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A Colorful Time

Have you ever wondered why the beautiful leaves change their colors in the Autumn? I have. That's when I did a little research,( since I had forgotten about fifth grade science), and here is what I found: Leaves basically change color because of long night time hours at his time of the year and how it has an effect on the chemical changes that occur in leaves of plants at all the seasonal times of the year. Three basic chemicals are involved and these are: chlorophill, carotenoids, and anthocyanins. Photosynthesis also plays a major role, or how plants absorb sunlight and chemically change and produce sugars to be used as a source of food in the plants. Each chemical has a function in leaf color. Chlorophill gives leaves the green coloration and at this time of the year in the Fall, this production shuts down and leaves lose the green color. That's when carotenoids, which give the many colors such as reds, yellows, and golds, are produced with the help of the water soluble anthocyanins. Since most of us are not a plant biologist or botanists, we all may have trouble in reading and pronouncing these scientific words of the chemical changes;( I know that I do).The main idea is that long nights and cooler weather, plus chemical reactions in the leaf structures, cause the change in leaf colors.

No, Leonardo /57, it is not because a giant painter splashes on red and yellow oils across the leaves that change the colors, and Man from Star tracks/777, it is not because men in Black riding in helicopters spray paint colors on all of the leaves at night, and also, Bird Watcher from Alcatraz/1952, a group of irate migratory birds, so prolific at his time of year, did not poop colors upon the leaves after eating red and yellow berries!(Names fictitious in order to protect the not-so-innocent).

The warm sunny days at this time of the year and cool crisp nights help create the conditions that cause the leaves to change their colors. The production of lots of sugars in the plants and plenty of sunlight helps to create the brilliant colors within the leaves of the trees that we all see at this time of the year. Leaf colors may well vary beginning in more northern climates of North America where they change earlier than more southerly regions due to cooler weather and which moves slowly down across the regions of the continent. These may start color changes in September in the north, and appear in late October and early November, in more southerly locations in the country. Trees of different types produce reds, or yellows, and golden colors, depending upon whether they may be Oaks, Poplar, Ash, Willow,Maple, Hickory or any of a wide variety of trees found in North America.

Have you been wandering why leaves fall off of the trees so easily at this time of the year? Veins that carry fluids into or out of leaves begin to close off by forming layers of cells . When this complete layer is formed across the stem of the leaf, then the leaf is dropped from its branches. That is why I often stand cursing(silently) in the middle of my yard, as I wield a rake and am knee-deep in colorful leaves of the Autumn season. It is also called the Fall because of obvious reasons, (thus falling leaves) it.

When leaves pile up on a forest floor. they provide new sources of nutrients for the soil and help make the environment that insures further plant growth. They also act as a sponge and hold water and any form of moister so that life can go on.

The New England area of the country is famous for its beautiful leaves in the Fall, as well as the Adirondacks, Appalachians, Smokey Mountains and Rocky Mountains regions, and the valleys situated all across the landscape of America. The broad palette of wonderful colors make it one of the most popular times of the year for families to get out and explore the great outdoors. It is a time of camping and hunting, and gives all who appreciate it reasons for us all to feel that we have truly been blessed.

Warm Summers, Cold Winters,

Cool Springs and a Chilly Fall,

My favorite in the Autumn time,

That our Lord has given us all.

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    • whonunuwho profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from United States

      Sharing time again. whonu

    • whonunuwho profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from United States

      Ever wondered why leaves change colors?

    • Ingenira profile image


      6 years ago

      I wondered too. Good explanation and beautiful pictures.


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