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Push, not Fall

Updated on April 19, 2011

I now propose a new name for that latter season of the year that we have for so long unwittingly called ‘Fall’. I propose that we begin referring to it as ‘Push’ instead.

The reason for my suggestion is — as you will soon see — quite logical. Fall has been known for so long as Fall perhaps in part because temperatures throughout the Northern Hemisphere begin to fall and continue falling through the autumnal stretch of the calendar. Or it may be quite simply that the name Fall stuck because so many leaves appear to fall from so many trees all around us as Halloween and Thanksgiving near.

Yes, that’s correct, I said appear to fall, because in fact every single one of those falling leaves has actually been Pushed.

As ambient temperatures descend and the amount of daily sunlight diminishes, leafed trees realize that their season of making hay — that is, photosynthesizing, making fruit, sprouting acorns, producing berries, extending branchlets, adding a new layer of cambium, and so on — will soon be coming to an end. They therefore begin to shut down all their growth factories and lay off all their chlorophyll. Without that dominant green coloration, other pigments are at last allowed to shine through: yellow xanthophylls, orange carotene, purple-red anthocyanin and brown tannin. As a result, we see the vivid russet foliage of autumn.

Then the big Push begins. The specialized abscission layer of cells that exists at the base of every single leaf stem begins to swell into a corky seal, preserving the tree's vital internal juices against evaporation or eventual freezing. As the abscission cells swell — ‘POP! — POP! — POP!’ — the no-longer-useful leaves are Pushed one by one off into the void, cascading to the ground in a seasonal swirl.

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