Friday, October 17, 2014

Finally! Autmn Colors

When you live with something all your life it is easy to take it for granted.  We New Englanders revel in Mother Nature’s autumn extravaganza, but rarely do we stop to think how fortunate we are when we see all those incredible colors.  This year, however, we had to wait until October 13th to see our deciduous trees turn into a blaze of red and gold, and I think the wait made us really appreciate it when it finally arrived.   
I used to think that it was Jack Frost who started this glorious  panorama by cutting off the chlorophyll that hides the other leaf pigments, but I was wrong. Jack hasn't even appeared.  So who turns off the chlorophyll?   
It's an enzyme at the base of the petiole of each leaf . It digests the cell walls, cutting off  photosynthesis. This is a programmed response built into the life cycle of each tree species to prepare it for winter when the ground is frozen and there is insufficient water to counteract leaf evaporation.
            Once the strong green pigments have stopped working, the yellow pigments are revealed, along with the scarlet and purple pigments. All these colorful tints require good light and high sugar content for their development.  Trees that have been unable to trap sufficient sugar in their leaves, produce softer colors than ones growing in the open.
            New England is one of the few places in the world where this phenomenal spectacle occurs, and so our roads are suddenly clogged with leaf peepers. And who can blame them?   Bed & Breakfasts love this show Mother Nature puts on.  They are booked months in advance, and provide hot lines in various states to inform callers when the peak of the color will occur.

Did you think, as I did, that  we were really not going to have an autumn extravaganza this year?   No rain, no frost, no real display of color,  The pathetic photo above of red sumac was the only color I found in the week before Columbus Day!  I was thinking I might have to write about something else.  But finally Mother Nature produced her Autumn extravaganza.

Suddenly the world was sparkling with gold,   The bright yellow leaves of ash and birch were everywhere, Willows, witch hazel, even a few lilacs had yellow leave. Willow, witch hazel, even a few lilacs had yellow leaves, The only red I saw was the top of a red oak, its lower half fading fast. 

The red leaves of sugar maples barely lasted a day this year, their  rosy hue quickly turning brown, and my dogwood's purple leaves blew away in the rain.  
       Locust Hill offers very little fall color now that the front yard has lost its sugar maple which looked  so bright and cheerful every year. Our many locust trees turn a dreary gray each fall.  But unlike the maple which requires hours of raking, their delicate leaves       disappear all by themselves before winter arrives.  The big silver     maple just stays green until its leaves finally lose their grip and       spiral down to earth.                                                                          
        I have a single burning bush, but it hasn't decided it's time to put on that brilliant red coat, so the one below sits in someone else's yard.                                                                                                    

I think our having to wait until Columbus Day to get  our autumn extravaganza was a good reminder that we shouldn’t take things for granted and keep remember how very lucky we are.                         

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog. As you have shared very useful information about plants, pigments and more.