Growing up in the Northeast part of the United States I’ve learned to appreciate the changing of the leaves during the Fall. As kids we would collect leaves and press them in photo albums.
But most of us don’t know why the leaves turn certain colors.
All leaves start out as green. This is because of the presence of pigments known as chlorophyll. When these green pigments are abundant in the leaf during the growing season, they mask the color of any other pigments that may be present in the leaf.
So the fall colors are always present in the leaf.
But with autumn comes a destruction of chlorophyll. This demise of green pigments allows the masked colors to become exposed. The cool thing is those exposed fall colors become an easy way to identify individual deciduous tree species.
So, let me introduce you to trees according to leaf color.
The most common leaf colors of fall are red, yellow and orange and some species expressing several of these colors simultaneously.
Red Leaf Color
Red is produced by warm, sunny fall days and cool fall nights. Leftover food in the leaf is transformed into red pigments. These red pigments also color cranberries, red apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and plums.
Some Maples | Some Oaks (red, pin, scarlet and black) | Some Sweetgum | Dogwood | Black Tupelo | Sourwood | Persimmon | Some Sassafras |
Yellow and Orange Leaf Color
Chlorophyll is destroyed with the onset of autumnal conditions. Deep orange is a combining of the red and yellow color making process. These yellow and orange pigments also color carrots, corn, canaries, and daffodils, as well as egg yolks, rutabagas, buttercups, and bananas.
Hickory | Ash | Some Maples | Yellow-poplar (tulip tree) | Some Oaks (white, chestnut, bear) | Some Sassafras | Some Sweetgum | Beech | Birch | Sycamore |
My favorites were always Maple and Sassafras. Sassafras leaves are like yellow ghosts.Maples are always good for keeping a multicolor look. Though Oaks are hard to beat as well.
Now go out and enjoy nature’s treasures before their all gone.