Breakdown: Why leaves change & when colors peak

Breakdown: Why leaves change colors & when they peak

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - During the early Fall months, leaves change from green to rich colors of red, orange and yellow.

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 transitions 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 trees are during the fall and winter season. Temperature, light and water supply all have an influence. Low temperatures will favor bright reds in maples. An early frost will weaken the reds. Rain and overcast days will also increase the intensity of fall colors.

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