One of the most beautiful things about fall is the way that leaves change color. While the exact reasons for this phenomenon are still not fully understood, there are a few theories that help to explain it. One popular theory is that the leaves are responding to the shorter days and cooler temperatures of autumn. As the days grow shorter, the leaves begin to produce less chlorophyll, the green pigment that helps them absorb sunlight for photosynthesis. With less chlorophyll present, other pigments in the leaves, such as carotenoids and anthocyanins, become more visible, resulting in the familiar reds, oranges, and yellows of autumn. Another theory posits that the changing colors are actually a defense mechanism designed to protect the leaves from harsh winter conditions. By changing color, leaves are able to reduce their surface area, which helps to conserve energy and prevent dehydration. Whatever the reason, there is no denying that fall is one of the best times of year to appreciate the natural beauty of trees and landscapes.
Why Leaves Change Color in the Fall
On the first day of fall, it’s only appropriate that we write about spectacular autumn foliage. More specifically, we thought it would be good to discuss why leaves change color this time of year. Keep reading to learn more from the experts at Pro Tree Service in Chicago!
Let’s revisit your middle school science class for a moment. According to ScienceDaily, chlorophyll is a green pigment found in plants, algae, and cyanobacteria. You might remember that chlorophyll plays an essential role in the process of photosynthesis, which allows plants to absorb energy from light.
So how does chlorophyll factor into the changing of leaves? Well, as summer comes to a close and temperatures start to become more fall-like, the chlorophyll in the leaves begins to break down. This is when we see the various color pigments, including red, orange, and yellow. Interestingly, the colors are most vibrant when the end of summer is dry, and the beginning of autumn consists of bright sunny days and cool nights.
Here’s an explanation of the four main leaf colors you’ll see this fall.
Green – Chlorophyll
As aforementioned, this pigment is responsible for helping trees turn sunlight into food. Outside of the fall months, chlorophyll is the dominant color seen in most leaves until it fades away. We should also mention that trees turn to stored sugars to survive the winter once they stop producing food.
Red – Anthocyanin
Nothing says autumn like the beautiful red leaves found on Red Maples, Red Sumacs, and Scarlet Oaks. While other leaf colors exist in the leaf itself, anthocyanins are produced as the chlorophyll breaks down. The Swamp Chestnut Oak is another common anthocyanin worth checking out this fall.
Orange – Carotene
You might know carotene as the chemical responsible for giving carrots their orange coloring. Yet many Chicago residents don’t realize that carotene also plays a major role in the changing of leaf color. Those who have a Super Maple in their yard are able to see carotene in action every autumn.
Yellow – Xanthophyll
Fall wouldn’t be the same without bursts of xanthophyll in beeches, ashes, aspens, birches, and oaks. Xanthophyll isn’t just limited to trees, though, as the chemical also contributes its yellow color to autumn corn and squash.
How Our Tree Service Can Help This Fall
Fall is a time to watch football, consume pumpkin-spiced everything, and, of course, enjoy the colorful foliage. But just because summer is officially over doesn’t mean you can stop paying attention to your trees for the foreseeable future. As we detailed in our fall tree care checklist, autumn provides the perfect opportunity to fertilize, hydrate, and plant.
Many Chicago homeowners will attempt to remove their trees over the next few months. Unfortunately, a number of these people will incur injuries or damage their properties as a result.
Expert in your area choice for tree removal since 1989. Whether your tree is showing signs of aging or was recently damaged in a storm, you can count on the professionals for an efficient, stress-free removal. Our full-service tree removal includes the removal of all logs, branches, and major debris.
Let’s be clear: there’s no need for homeowners to trim and prune their trees on a regular basis. As we’ve discussed at length in previous posts, the constant removal of limbs and branches can shorten the life of some trees. This is where it’s best to defer to the skilled team. The combination of our experience and having the right tools for the job allows us to keep your tree healthy and aesthetically pleasing. Learn more about our tree trimming expertise today!