As the winter months come creeping towards us and the summer fades away, we are always amazed at the beauty that comes with autumn at Asbury Woods. The leaves begin to change color and fall, leaving us with the brightest yellows, oranges, and reds all throughout our property. Though we can appreciate the beauty, not many know why the leaves change color, or what those colors mean.
To understand the changes of colors, we must first understand why leaves are green. Many people know that plants thrive off of sunlight and water. This is because plants create their food by ways of photosynthesis, a process in which plants utilize carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight. The sunlight is absorbed by chlorophyll, a green chemical that is inside the leaves of these plants. Plants have such an abundance of chlorophyll that maintains their green coloring. Scientifically speaking, the phenomenon of leaves changing color occurs when chlorophyll begins to leave the leaf and showcases the Xanthophyll, Carotene, or Anthocyanin that was also contained in the leaf.
What does this mean? There are certain chemical compounds in the leaves that vary depending on the tree. These colors are “covered up” by the dominance of green in the chlorophyll. When it begins to get colder and the sun shines less, the chlorophyll in these leaves begins to break down and the trees begin producing less, which reveals the other colors present. The color of the leaf after the breakdown occurs depends on the type of tree that the leaf is coming from and how the weather is during the season. Temperature, light, and water supply can influence how bright the leaves are and how long they stay that way. Many species of tree contain carotenoid, which causes a yellow, orange, or brown color. Some trees have yellow coloring that is formed from Xanthophyll and is seen in trees like beeches, ashes, aspens, and some forms of oak. Red, from Anthocyanin, is produced as the chlorophyll is broken down and favors the low temperatures and early frost. Red Maples, Scarlet Oaks, and Red Sumacs all get their name from the colors their leaves turn in the fall time. With less food and support, the tree also becomes weaker and drops many of its leaves that have smaller and weaker stems. Most trees shed their leaves in fall, but sometimes they stay until growth starts again in spring.
The science behind these lovely colors is much more complex and in-depth, but the beauty of these colors is easy to see. Enjoy them while they last, spend some time in the woods before the winter hits!