Jeff Wilson: Fall colors

October 3, 2009 7:36:00 PM



You may have noticed the color of the trees and shrubs beginning to change. It won''t be long until there are brilliant red, orange and yellow leaves blanketing the floor of the landscape. From the reds of the maple, dogwood, sweetgum and oak trees to the yellows of the ginkgo, sugar maple, poplar, elm -- and even some crepe myrtles -- the colors should be spectacular. 


While you are enjoying these outstanding trees, you may be wondering, "Why do leaves change color?" The answer can be quite lengthy, but I will try to keep it somewhat short.  


First of all, these bright colors are within the leaf all summer but are masked by the green pigments known as chlorophyll. As the weather cools, the vital processes of the leaf begin to slow down. The chlorophyll is then broken down and sent to the body of the tree to be stored until spring. What remains are small, yellow refractive bodies that give a yellow appearance. If more sugars happen to be left in the leaf than the tree needs, it produces the brilliant reds of the dogwoods or the red-browns seen in the oaks. 


While this does answer the earlier-asked question, you may be like many and not care why leaves change color, just as long as they do. Either way, take time to enjoy the beautiful colors, like the outstanding sugar maple by Court Square Towers or the ginkgos on College Street and in downtown Columbus. Just take time to drive around our beautiful Golden Triangle and enjoy God''s artistry. You''ll be amazed every time. 


For more information on leaves changing colors, contact your local Mississippi State University Extension Service office (662-328-2111 in Columbus) and ask for Information Sheet 818.  


Jeff Wilson is the area horticulture agent for the Mississippi State University Extension Service, Northeast District. E-mail reaches him at [email protected]