Fall Foliage in New England

As Mainers, we don’t question the autumn palette in our landscapes once summer comes to a close. We’re used to the changing of colors come fall season and dare I say we may even take it for granted.

I know for me personally, it wasn’t until I left Maine for a few years to move down south that I found my genuine appreciation for fall in New England. I will never forget my first October back home, quite literally squealing out loud from the car window as I drove by the multicolored display in the trees.

Fall foliage doesn’t happen quite like this all over the country, so what’s causing it to happen here?

Why do the Leaves Change Color in Fall?

I’m about to get all smart and sciency with you but I have to credit the USDA Forest Service U.S. Department of Agriculture for the help.

We don’t know everything going on inside of these leaves but we do have a pretty basic understanding and I can at least give you a simple answer for why the leaves turn colors in autumn.

So, there are three types of pigments living inside of leaves: Carotenoids (produce yellow, orange, and brown colors); Anthocyanin (gives off the reddish colors); and Chlorophyll, which we learned in 7th grade is responsible for the green color.

Chlorophyll, the green guys, rely on photosynthesis to produce its mighty green colors. As fall makes its debut, there is less sunlight, cooler temperatures, and longer nights. This combination of things causes Chlorophyll production to slow down, eventually stop, and the Chlorophyll is destroyed.

What does this mean?

The Carotenoids and Anthocyanin that are present in the leaf are then revealed and they get to show off the red, orange, and yellow colors they naturally produce since the green guy is out of their way.

Layne Lawson via Unsplash
Layne Lawson via Unsplash

Boom, fall colors.

Simple enough, right?

You learn something new every day. Now go share your new fun fact with others.

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