Posted on October 9, 2017 by Neil Ungerleider

Fall Foliage

(Photo By Dori, CC BY-SA 3.0) 

Among the blessings of living in New England is the fall foliage.

Red maple leaves and orange on the oaks is a visual treat that tourists travel from far destinations to see.

In fact, the best place in the world for viewing fall colors is probably here, according to sciencemadesimple.com.   We have just the right climate and a wide variety of deciduous trees.

The conditions that make for the brightest colors are a dry late summer and bright, sunny fall days with cool nights in the low 40s.  “A fall with cloudy days and warm nights brings drab colors,” according to the website.   

Climate change and warmer temperatures might eventually lead to a less colorful fall.

"From the Boston area to Burlington, Vermont, to Portland, Maine, the past three weeks have been the warmest stretch in that timeframe since record-keeping began in about 1872," writes David Epstein in The Boston Globe. "This comes on the heels of one of the warmest Septembers on record as well. Over the past month, we’ve had temperatures close to 80 degrees at some point nearly every weekend."

Trees know to “get ready for winter” because of the shorter days, but the leaves do not change color because it is cold.

During the growing season, leaves form food for the tree from photosynthesis.  But in the winter, with water harder to get, trees live off the food formed in the warmer months, meaning the leaves are no longer necessary.  Shedding them cuts down on disease.

The orange and yellow fall colors are always present in the leaves, but masked by the green chlorophyll.  As the trees “shut down” the chlorophyll begins to disappear and the colors emerge.

The red and purple colors are formed by glucose that has been trapped in the leaves, as the tree severs its connection between limbs and leaves.

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