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Why Do Leaves Change Colors?

It’s amazing how something dying can be so beautiful. Yes, that’s right, the leaves changing colors are actually dying out. But let’s think of it as the tree needing a break after working so hard all spring and summer to stay green.

The green color of leaves if from the chlorophyll that is found in the leaves. The chlorophyll is needed in conjunction with sunlight for the trees to covert water and carbon dioxide into sugar for food. This process is known as photosynthesis.  As we make our way into the fall season we start to lose daylight and the nights get cooler. Without the nice warm sunlight the trees have to slow down their production of chlorophyll. Once the tree is done producing chlorophyll the carotenoid in the leaves get to show their yellows, oranges, and browns.

So where do the reds come from you ask? Reds are very dependent on the weather. The best conditions for red leaves are a string of warm fall days combined with cool nights. The tree does its photosynthesis during the day but then things cool down at night and the sugar has a hard time leaving the leaf. To make sure that the tree eventually gets those nutrients before the leaves fall off it produces anthocyanins which give off the red and purple colors.

Eventually the veins carrying those nutrients and sap out from the leaves into the tree start to close up. Once they are closed up they have done their job for the year and the leaves can fall off. The tree is now in a resting phase as the days get shorter and colder.

Now that you know why the leaves change colors check out the foliage map from www.yankeefoliage.com

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