Why Turn Red?

The autumn leaf is toast, but it still redecorates

10:12am, October 22, 2002

A leaf turning red in the fall makes for a much greater mystery than a leaf turning yellow does. The yellowing signals simply a dropping of veils because the yellow pigment has lain hidden in the leaf during its long, green summer. When summer ends and the green pigments break down, the yellow shines through. Reds, however, don't loll around all summer. A leaf with only a few weeks left to hang on its tree summons its faltering resources for a burst of bright-red-pigment making.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.

More from Science News