'It's amazing' to witness fall foliage in this area
Published 5:51 pm, Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Living in New England, we are a lucky bunch.
No, not because of the rapid and drastic changes in temperatures that drive people who work outdoors crazy.
Every fall New England takes center stage as one of the best places, if not the best place, to witness fall foliage worldwide.
The reason for that is we happen to live in a climate, with the proper tree species needed, to experience an amazing transformation from green to magnificent shades of yellow, orange, red and purple.
Did you ever wonder why trees change colors in the fall?
During the growing season trees carry out photosynthesis within leaves containing chlorophyll.
Most trees leaves are green in color during the growing season because chlorophyll becomes the most prevalent pigment due to the process of photosynthesis.
As we enter into fall, the days get shorter and cooler. Because of this, trees have less of a chance to produce chlorophyll.
As chlorophyll production slows, the green color in the leaves starts to disappear and other pigments within the leaves become visible.
These other pigments are what produce the beautiful colors we all associate with fall.
There are two types of pigments, aside from chlorophyll, that account for the colors we see.
They are carotene and anthocyanin.
Leaves in some tree species contain carotene, the same pigment that gives carrots their orange color.
Most of the year the yellow color of the leaf is hidden by the greater amount of chlorophyll within the leaf.
As chlorophyll production is slowed, the carotenoid pigment becomes more dominant and the leaf turns yellow.
Other species of trees contain anthocyanin. This pigment is responsible for the red and purples we see in some species of plants such as Viburnum and Sweet Gum.
Orange colored leaves come from a combination of both carotene and anthocyanin, which are both present within the leaf.
Environmental factors also play a role in the colors we see.
The amount and type of nutrients found in the soil, the amount of sunlight a tree receives, as well as temperature and precipitation leading up to fall all play a vital role in how vivid the fall foliage will be.
It's actually common for the same species of tree to look different depending on where it's situated.
The same tree could be red in full sun, orange in partial sun and yellow in a shaded spot.
That same species would also have more brilliant foliage if it were located on a lawn being that was fertilized versus the same species in poor soil.
Some years fall color is more pronounced than others due to temperatures.
Leading up to peak season, warm and sunny days followed by nights in the mid-30s to 40s usually bring on the best displays.
Rainy or cloudy weather leading up to fall will diminish the colors we will see.
Freezing temperatures and heavy frost will also reduce the brilliance by killing or injuring the leaf before the pigments reach their full development.
Given all the different things that need to take place, it's amazing just to witness such a sight.
Enjoy your fall!
Richard Schipul is owner of Designing Eden, LLC in New Milford. He holds degrees in horticulture and landscape architecture and is a nationally certified landscape designer through the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and a Connecticut certified nurseryman.