The Secrets Behind Autumn Leaves

Posted on November 25, 2014 in Gutter Repair

fall leaves

Snow may be right around the corner, but there are still plenty of beautiful orange, red, and yellow leaves dotting the trees and lining the roads. While you’re probably used to the leaves changing colors and falling every year, you may still have some unanswered questions about it all…

Why do leaves change colors?

Every year, we revel in the warm colors of autumn but many of us don’t know why exactly leaves change colors before they fall. The entire process is a chemical one: During the spring and summer, trees absorb nutrients (via photosynthesis) through their leaves, which are rich in chlorophyll. While the leaves have other colors in them, the chlorophyll is what gives them their green color.

Once the temperatures drop and the days become shorter, the leaves stop providing nutrients and the chlorophyll breaks down. As the chlorophyll breaks down, the other colors in the leaves begin to shine through and mix with another chemical process that produces anthocyanins, which are red pigments.

What makes some leaves red and others yellow?

Ever wonder why the leaves on one tree are all purple while the leaves on the tree next to it area all yellow? It all simply depends on what pigments naturally occur in the tree. If one tree naturally has more yellow than another, you’ll most likely see yellow leaves on it come autumn. It also depends on how much anthocyanin is produced during the color-changing process. The more anthocyanin, the redder the leaves can appear.

Why do leaves fall?

As the chlorophyll drains from the leaves, their nutrients are absorbed by the trunk and roots of the tree, which is what helps get them through the winter months. Once all the nutrients are absorbed, there’s no real need for the leaves anymore, so a layer of cells develops where the leaf connects to the tree. Once the cells are done developing, the tree seals the connection and the leaf falls. Come spring, the tree will grow new leaves to start the nutrient process over again.

Which trees change colors first?

When it comes to the order of color-changing trees, it’s not so much the type of tree that determines when it will change, but the health of the tree. Unhealthy or stressed trees will often be the first to change colors. They can be affected by drought, excessive heat or cold, excess moisture, insects, and more. When you see a lone tree late in the season that still has its autumn leaves, it’s most likely the healthiest of the bunch.

Did you know?

Weather affects the color intensity of autumn leaves. If the weather is overcast or rainy, you’ll see more brightly colored leaves. If the temperatures are low, but above freezing, leaves will be more red than usual. And if there’s frost, you’ll see weakened colors.

While autumn leaves are beautiful to look at, remember that they can fall into your Maryland gutters and cause clogging issues. Keep your gutters clean by calling the experts at P.J. Fitzpatrick today.

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