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Thursday, June 30, 2011

For What Purpose Do Late Summer Elements of Foliage Alter Colors?

If you are like most people, you love to see the changing colors of the Fall leaves when summer shifts into the fall season.

You may have been awed by the beauty of leaves in the fall, yet did you ask yourself the cause of the multicolored leaves? Why are some red, while others are yellow or orange or brown?


Fall Leaves


The purpose leaves provide in regards to the life of a tree provides insights about color variations among leaves. Simply stated, leaves are the food source for trees.

Following are the basic steps where leaves make food for trees.

How leaves work

  • Water from roots
  • Sunshine
  • Photosynthesis


Roots provide leaves with the water required for life.

A critical role of trees is their ability to remove, and utilize, carbon dioxide from the air. This is why many believe that planting trees helps combat global warming, thinking that each added tree takes more carbon dioxide from the air.

Oxygen and glucose are end products from which natural sunlight and water drawn from a tree‘s roots have altered carbon dioxide. Those same leaves release the oxygen into the air, which is good news for us! The tree uses the glucose as its food. The name of this amazing process that provides life for both the human and plant worlds is photosynthesis. An important chemical in the photosynthesis process, chlorophyll, is the source of green coloring in leaves.

It‘s a mystery how the message is shared, but trees somehow know, or at lease sense, when winter is approaching. At this point in time, trees begin exhibiting consistent signs that they are aware of the season and the changes they must make. The most significant change in the winter months is that there no longer is sufficient light to support photosynthesis.

And that‘s not all, freezing and a decline in precipitation likely will lesson the root system’s ability to draw water up to the tree. Suddenly, the trees lose the ability to produce food. Tree survival is not challenged, however, because of how much food the tree stored over the spring and summer.

Chlorophyll in leaves serves no purpose once photosynthesis ends. There is no more chlorophyll in the leaves. This draining of the chlorophyll removes all of the green from the leaf. So, it’s not as if the leaf is turning a different color! Rather, the colors have been there all along; they’ve just been overpowered by green chlorophyll. Once that is removed, you are left with the Fall leaves real color!

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