Why fall colours?

It's my favourite time of the year here in Vermont and I want to embrace these stunning Vermont colours while they last.  Full disclosure; I have to give one of my sisters photo credit for the above image as this photo was taken by her in Quebec last weekend (photo credit: Cessie Ross).

So why do the leaves change colours each autumn?   It is a result of chlorophyll* breaking down and the green colour disappearing.  The yellow and orange colours become visible producing the fall splendor.  Additionally, other chemical changes can occur which form some of the other red colours (i.e. development of red anthocyanin pigments). 

* Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green colour and helps make photosynthesis happen.  Photosynthesis is the way plants and trees turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and sugar.

Trees are nature's food factories.  They take water from the ground through their roots and take carbon dioxide from the air and use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose.   Trees use glucose as food for energy and as a building block for growing.

This magic that occurs in trees is the fundamental beginning of the production of maple sap which is then boiled down to make maple syrup.

I get melancholy watching the trees turn colour and begin to drop their leaves.   As I write this, the leaves are already falling as we prepare for what we in Vermont call 'Stick Season' which will be covered over with white fluffy snow in no time.   The changing seasons is such a gift as is the sweet nectar of maple produced in the springtime.  The magic of maple.....

Dori Ross


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