‘Twas in the Fall of 1981 – after returning from a three-year orchestral stint in South Florida (a state I remember temperature-wise as being blessed with three seasons: warm, warmer and hot) – that I first experienced the dazzling power of autumnal Nature in the Northeast.
At the time, I kept a spiral notebook on the green cover of which I had scrawled 1981-82, and the first entries cover the month of October 1981 in three segments:
A. Early turning trees
B. Early-to-middle turning trees
C. Late turning trees
And here they are in the order of their colors as I observed at the time:
A. October 9 – 11
SUMAC red to purple
SHABLOW reddish to bronze
WILLOWS yellow – green (below)
ASHES yellow – green
BLACK GUM ——–do——–
SASSAFRASS orange to scarlet
SOUR GUM brilliant red (below)
C. October (late)
OAKS dark red to brown
PEACH yellow to bronze
Due to diminishing daylight hours and dropping night temperatures (below 40 degrees Fahrenheit) chemical processes in the leaves slow down: these involve three pigments – chlorophyll, carotinids and anthocyanines.
Briefly, with less light, a tiny layer of new cells develops at the base of each leaf, cutting off its water supply, and decomposing chlorophyll (that gives leaves their green look.) As a result, carotinids become more pronounced coloring some trees orange and yellow.
Also, sugar produced by other leaves is converted into anthocyanine, which turns leaves bright red and purple.
So there you have it – chemistry lesson’s over!
Copyright © 2015 Azim Lewis Mayadas