Breakdown: Why leaves change color

Breakdown: Why leaves change color

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - As we transition into the fall season, the leaves of green will start to turn various shades of browns, yellow, purple, oranges and red. When seeing this transition have you ever wondered, why does this happen?

Well in today’s breakdown, we will explain the science of why leaves change color in the fall.

The changes in color have to do with a chemical process that take place in the tree as the seasons change from summer to winter.

According to the College of Environmental Science and Forestry, each spring and summer the leaves serve as a type of factory where most of the food necessary for a tree’s growth is created. The process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is what gives leaves its green color. Chlorophyll uses sunlight as energy to transform carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, such as sugar and starches.

As the season transition into fall, the length of daylight changes and the temperatures begin to lower. When this starts to happen, leaves will stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll will break down, making the green color disappear, this makes the yellow to orange colors more visible, as carotenes and xanthophyll are in the leaves.

The chemical makeup of the various leaves in the tress help give them their vibrant colors and will change their pigment from green to shades of yellow, purple, orange and even red.

Weather effects how long and how intense the colors of the tress are during the fall and winter season. Temperature, light and water supply all have an influence. Low temperatures and above freezing will favor bright reds in maples. An early frost will weaken the reds. Rain and overcast days will increase the intensity of fall colors.

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