Why exactly do the leaves change?

Weather Whys

We’ve already started to see a little color change. It’s patchy at best. But why do the leaves change color? 

First, lets talk about the green. This is the chlorophyll in the leaves… to get chlorophyll, we need sunlight… longer days beginning in the Spring will spur growth and the development of that green pigment… The chlorophyll breaks down and is replenished with the Sun all Spring and Summer long. 

As we start losing daylight in June… the trees feel the affects. The days get shorter and the air begins to get slightly cooler. Chlorophyll is very sensitive to cooler air. Eventually the chlorophyll – or the green pigment –  begins to break down. Under the chlorophyll, there are other pigments of color. As the green wears away, the colors are revealed. 

These are called Carotenoids which create the yellows, oranges and browns. These colors are always there and are underneath the green. 

Then there is anthocyanin which is the red color. This pigment isn’t always there. It’s produced in the cool and sunny Fall days… which is why as we get deeper into Fall, we’ll start seeing more red colors.

Eventually, the veins that carry the fluid into the leaves will shut off and the leaves die and fall. Then it’s full circle…. the leaves that fall around the tree will actually help to nourish the tree in the next season. 
What influences these colors? Well good sun and the right amount of rain. 

We typically peak by the middle or end of October depending on where you’re at. Here’s a look at where we should be by the third week in October. As you can see, the eastern part of the state will peak first and the west will peak last. 

So get those cameras ready because we’d love to see your photos. If you send them in, we just may feature them on Good Day Dakota. 

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