2009-09-04 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

The Colorful Story Behind Autumn Foliage
Commentary By Danielle, Danielle's Rockaway Florist

Have you ever wondered why there are so many shades of beautiful oranges, yellows and burgundies that fill the leaves on the trees in the fall?

Well, each leaf is a little food factory that creates nutrients for the tree so it can live and grow.

In the spring the leaves begin to form, and the trees are full with foliage.

Each leaf has chlorophyll inside that gives them that deep green shade for us to enjoy throughout the summer.

The chlorophyll absorbs light and energy from the sun and undergoes photosynthesis, which is the process within the leaves that combines water, carbon dioxide and light. This produces oxygen for us, and glucose (sugar) nutrients for the tree.

When the fall creeps in, the days become shorter, and the sun sets earlier. There is not as much light for the leaves to absorb, and the tree gets ready for winter. They have been storing any excess nutrients that have been produced over the past few months, and shut down their "food factories." It no longer produces chlorophyll, and the green color begins to fade from the leaves. Other natural chemicals remain, and the colors of these chemicals become predominant. Some are red, others oranges or yellows - so you can find a combination of different color leaves on one tree.

The intensity and variation in color is affected by weather conditions that create or leave the chemicals behind.

Rainfall, temperature, humidity and sunlight all affect how strong the colors of the leaves are, and how long they will live on the tree.

For instance, after a maple tree has gotten used to the cool autumn nights, the glucose that remains in the leaves turns them a beautiful shade of red.

Anthocyanin pigments, commonly found in beets, grapes and apples, can also be found in certain trees whose leaves have a purplish, red undertone.

Oak leaves turn a deep shade of brown because of a chemical called tannin, that is found in the leaves after the chlorophyll is gone. Carotene turns leaves an orange hue, and xanthophylls are yellow chemicals that leave the foliage a golden honey color.

The brightest shades of color are best seen when the late summer is dry and the autumn has bright sunny days and very cool temperatures at night.

It will soon be the time to plan a long ride upstate and see the beautiful, grand landscapes of the changing leaves and spectacular color show they put on for us.

Enjoy the last days of summer, as we will be welcoming in the fall sooner than you think!

In just about a week or so, we will be set up with all of our fall wreaths, centerpieces, candles and home décor.

Feel free to stop by, and bring a little bit of "autumn" into your home. Visit us at 436 Beach 129 Street or visit us on the web at DaniellesRockawayFlorist. com

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