A Tribute to Fall Leaves

by Seasonal Wisdom on October 20, 2011

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Colorful fall leaves in red, orange and yellow have long been considered a beloved symbol of autumn. Learn why autumn leaves change colors, and celebrate this beautiful natural process that occurs each year in much of the United States. All photos copyright Teresa O’Connor.

fall trees with red leaves

Why Leaves Change Color: As nights grow longer, autumn leaves change colors, because the chlorophyll in leaves starts to die away.

Chlorophyll gives leaves their green color. It’s also vital for photosynthesis, which is the chemical reaction that enables plants to use sunlight to manufacture sugars for their food. (Hey, plants have to eat too!)

As this chlorophyll production slows down and then stops, the carotenoids and anthocyanins present in the leaves become more noticeable. Carotenoids produce yellow, orange and brown colors in plants. Anthocyanins produce reds, blues and purples.

Different tree species turn at slightly different times and have different color effects, as you can imagine. The weather plays a big role too. Learn more about why leaves change color from the USDA Forest Service.

fall leaves in red and orange

Science aside, the pure visual beauty of changing leaves has inspired artists, photographers, poets and authors for centuries. Consider this poem, which seemed perfectly timed for today’s post.

Colorful leaves on rocks

Last Week in October

The trees are undressing, and fling in many places –

On the gray road, the roof, the window-sill –

Their radiant robes and ribbons and yellow laces;

A leaf each second so is flung at will,

Here, there, another and another, still and still.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

New Hampshire autumn trees

As leaves fall and winter draws nearer, is it any wonder that people in earlier times grew worried about the upcoming cold months?  That’s why falling autumn leaves were caught mid-flight and preserved, either to decorate the winter home or as a good-luck charm against catching colds.

So, before all those fall leaves disappear in your area for another year, take a moment to catch a few yourself. Then let me know how you use them throughout your home … or even, whether they keep you safe from colds this winter! More fall tree pictures. Advice for preserving leaves and flowers from the Maryland Cooperative Extension.

Learn how to use fall leaves around the garden.

Coming next … a look at some of Halloween’s strange history. Check it out. If you dare.


Annie Haven | Authentic Haven Brand October 21, 2011 at 3:56 pm

beautiful thank you for the colorful Fall share we don’t get that type of color here in So Cal <|;-)

Teresa O'Connor October 21, 2011 at 5:58 pm

Thanks so much, Annie. I’m delighted to share some of this autumnal beauty with all you Californians. All the best to you… Teresa

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