While you were booking your Vermont wedding venue, have you ever thought about where these colors come from? Why do we only see them during a certain time of year? If you have pondered these questions, then keep reading!
First of all, when you are talking about colors in nature, you are talking about pigments. Generally speaking, pigments are colors and there are different types of pigments that absorb and reflect different wavelengths of light to provide a color that we can see. Pigments can be found in everything from rocks to animal and plant tissues, and there are certain pigments that will be found in certain places.
During the summer, leaves are food processing factories! They take advantage of the growing season and produce as many sugars for the tree as they can. Chlorophyll, the green pigment found in leaves, is responsible for driving the entire food making process (photosynthesis). Chlorophyll traps energy from sunlight so that water and carbon dioxide can be converted to sugars and oxygen. Therefore, as chlorophyll continues driving photosynthesis, the leaf continues producing chlorophyll, and the green color masks all the other pigments in the summer.
However, as winter gets closer, there will not be enough sunlight during the day for leaves to continue their food manufacturing process. As a way to conserve energy, leaves begin shutting down their “factories” as the tree prepares to live off the sugars made during the summer. So, in response to changes in daylight hours and temperature during the fall season, chlorophyll begins breaking down. As chlorophyll breaks down, the green color begins to disappear revealing other pigments such as yellow, orange, and brown laying underneath. It is only when chlorophyll breaks down and leaves stop photosynthesizing do we see those fall colors that we love so much.
There are different factors that will determine how brilliantly certain fall colors show. The best conditions for optimal fall color are when there has been a warm, wet spring; a summer that’s not too hot or dry; and a fall with plenty of warm sunny days and cool nights, especially if we want to see red. Lower temperatures just above freezing will encourage red pigment formation in maples and produce bright red leaves.
Certain conditions can also diminish any bright colors, such as an early frost. A frost would effectively kill leaves and immediately leave them brown and crispy. A drought could delay fall colors by a few weeks or kill off leaves causing them to drop before they even have a chance to change. A severe storm would also knock off leaves before any color develops. Hopefully, these things won’t happen this year and we can enjoy our beautiful fall colors.
For those of you who are serious leaf peepers, check out this cool link to read about the great places to visit to see the best fall foliage!