Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Fall Walk

Sunday, my sister and I decided to take a walk to enjoy the warm weather and get a little exercise. We told the dog we were going for a "walky", leashed her up, and off we went.

Joyce lives next to an awesome old cemetery with 35 acres to explore and lots of tombstones from the 1800's. My favorite part about this cemetery is the huge, old trees. Lots of gnarly oaks, beech, ash and pines. But, the stars of the show were the gorgeous sugar maples.

Sugar maples are always good for color in the fall. They tend to color unevenly, so there will be rich hues of orange, scarlet and yellow all within the same tree.

This particular tree really caught my eye. It seemed to be ablaze with rich crimson color. I circled around it taking shot after shot. The dog grew tired and looked at me as if to say "Hey lady, there are smells to explore and you are holding us up!"

Another view from a different angle of this sugar maple. What a beauty! One might ask, what produces these rich colors? The colors are produced by pigments found in the leaves. There are three main pigments involved in leaf color:

Carotenoids produce colors of orange, yellow and brown. They give carrots their bright orange hue and daffodils their sunny yellow petals. They are always present in the leaf, but the green of chrorophyll usually masks them.
Anthocyanins produce purple and red colors. Apples, cranberries, strawberries, plums, grapes and blueberries all can thank anthocyanins for their color. They can be greater when there is more sugar and sun. Think ripe fruit.
Chlorophyll is the pigment that makes green plants green and has an important role in making sugars for the plant.
Warm, sunny days and cool, but not freezing nights are a good combination to insure ample color displays. During these days, the warm sun cause lots of sugars to be produced in the leaf. Cool nights cause gradual closing of veins going into the leaf and prevent these sugars from moving out. The equation of lots of sugar plus lots of light step up production of the brilliant anthocyanin pigments, responsible for the rich purples and crimsons. Since carotenoids levels are similar from year to year, the yellow and gold colors remain fairly constant each fall. Soil moisture can also affects autumn colors. Low soil moisture can hamper sugar production that can affect the reds and purple hues.
Since sugar maples naturally have a high sugar content in their sap, they favor high levels of anthocyanins to produce the rich color that sugar maples are known for.
The countless combinations of moisture and temperature affect the outcome in such a way that there are no two autumns exactly alike. An extra cold spring or summer drought can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks. Unseasonably warm fall nights can cause a reduction of color by hampering the closing of the leaf veins and not trapping the sugars. The best combo is a wet, warm spring, a mild summer followed by warm fall days and cool nights.

Get out and enjoy these last days of fall before winter sets in. BRRRRRR!!!!

No comments: