The vibrant colors of autumn leaves is one of the best parts of the fall season, but why exactly do trees put on this colorful display each year? Today we’re exploring the scientific reasons behind one of nature’s most gorgeous phenomena.
Preparing for winter
As the weather slowly starts to get cooler in the fall, trees sense this change and begin to prepare themselves for the long, dark winter. Colder temperatures signal to trees to stop their food-making process and begin conserving their energy for winter. In addition to a change in routine, trees also see less and less sunlight as autumn progresses, which causes chlorophyll in their leaves to break down, draining them of their green color in favor of yellows, oranges, reds, and even purples.
What about evergreen trees?
While deciduous start the process of dropping their leaves, others, like conifers, stay green and grand all year round. This is because these trees, usually located in colder climates, have the power to protect themselves from winter’s icy chill. The waxy coating on pine needles protects them from the cold while the fluids found in the leaves of conifers are also less likely to freeze than those in deciduous species.
As we in the Northern Hemisphere enjoy the last of the season’s vibrant foliage, appreciate them knowing that invisible to the human eye, complex hibernation habits are taking place to ready our favorite trees for the long winter ahead.