So fall has arrived and we are reaching the end of another growing season…..for plants, hopefully not for us. It has been such a wonderful year so far that Mother Nature doesn’t want it to end without one more little fireworks display. I, personally, consider the fall to be Nature’s celebration of yet another successful year. Soon, the killing frost will be upon us, but before happens, let’s get one more “WOW” from this amazing World we’ve been given. The question is, how does Mother Nature pull off this fantastic extravaganza?
Would you believe that those amazing colors were actually there all along? I’m sure you all learned about good ole photosynthesis waaaaaaaay back in grade school. In a nutshell, or perhaps more appropriately in a leaf cell, photosynthesis is the process in which plants convert water and carbon dioxide into sugar and oxygen. Without getting to far into the science behind this process, essentially the chloroplast cells (which are a key part of the process of photosynthesis) collect the photons from the sun to begin the light reactions in photosynthesis. The chemicals present called chlorophyll reflects the green rays resulting in a green pigment. Now assuming the plant is getting plenty of moisture and sunlight, the chlorophyll is so intense that it actually manages to turn the entire leaf a green hue. However, during the fall months as daylight lessens and temperatures begin to drop the plants begin to slow these processes down. With the plants slowing this process, they create less and less chlorophyll and other chemicals in the plant can then step up and express themselves”.
Caratonoids and Anthocyanins are two other chemicals present in leaves cells. The Carotanoids are actually present year round, but the chlorophyll creates a much stronger pigment. Thus it is only when the process of photosynthesis slows and chlorophyll dissipates, that the caratanoids can show their pigment. These caratanoids are responsible of the yellow and orange leaf color we get during fall periods. The anthocyanins’ which not all plants produce, give us those amazing reds that stand out so well during the fall fireworks display. It is not truly understood why some plants produce anthocyanins, however some scientists believe that it is actually a response to cooler temperatures. An attempt by the cells to protect against potential frost. Regardless, the result is an incredible view.
No matter what the reasons, the how, or the why, one thing is for certain; Mother Nature is a genius. The fact that we get one last “show” from these organisms that are so vital to our existence is nothing short of a miracle. We have a front row season to a true celebration of life. We get to witness Nature in all its splendor and glory. I highly recommend you get out there and take advantage. Don’t forget, GOOD LUCK AND KEEP GROWING!!