General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

What causes the variety of autumn leaf colors?

Asked by LostInParadise (18209 points ) October 15th, 2008

I know that the fall leaf colors are due to the residual of the leaf that is present after the phototsynthesizing cholorophyl goes away. But why is there such a variety of different colors? Not that I am complaining.

The colors come in various shades of yellow, orange, red and brown and each tree species seems to have its own specific color. Unlike flower colors, I doubt that the colors have any significance on their own. I would suppose that just as chlorophyl makes leaves uniformly green, whatever is left over must serve some purpose and therefore should have a characteristic color.

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3 Answers

Harp's avatar

This site gives a very thorough explanation of the compounds behind each color and their functions in the plant (a bit too complex to reproduce here)

stargazercrys's avatar

The colors in the leaves change due to the slowing of sugar production in the trees. Sugar production is fine in the spring/summer and when it slows in the fall-we end up with bright reds, oranges, and yellows on our trees.

robaccus's avatar

Autumn Flower:

Now, petal, fall.
So sad to be the only one:
Your sisters all
have said goodbye to Summer’s sun.
Now hear their call:
Drop softly down as they have done.

And, green stem, fade.
Wither, and bow your tired head down.
You were not made
to last. No, let your lush life drown
in Death’s parade
of orange, red, and gold and brown.

Yes, flower, die.
And no more smile your face upon
this weeping sky;
But smile at us when you are gone.
And do not sigh
for beauty. Yours goes on and on.

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