Make Like a Tree and Leaf!

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Today is the first day of autumn! We’ve finally made it to the best season! The weather is cooler…or it will be, and the leaves will soon start to show off on the trees! Here in the Park, we have some gorgeous fall colors that you can’t miss. But, when is the best time to come? Well, it just so happens that a lot of people get FOMO (fear of missing out) over fall leaves! There are a ton of fall foliage maps online that you can check out. Below is a great example!

As a comparison of what those seasonal changes in the landscape might look like throughout the weeks, below are a few photographs from the Park in those different stages.

So now that you know when to come to the Park, you might be wondering why the leaves change at all and why they fall off!

It starts with the chlorophyll in the tree’s leaves. When sunlight is taken in through the leaves and stored by chlorophyll, photosynthesis starts. During photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and water from their environment. Trees are able to change the carbon dioxide to sugar and water to oxygen. The oxygen is released into the air while the sugar is stored as energy for the tree to grow!  Chlorophyll gives the leaves their green color because that is the only color reflected out instead of absorbed.

Chlorophyll absorption
Tree leaves absorb all wavelengths except green. Green is reflected, which is why leaves appear green to the human eye! Courtesy of The Encyclopedia for the Environment.

When it is warm outside, chlorophyll is extremely active inside the leaves. This allows us to only see green reflecting from the leaves. But, when the weather begins to cool and daylight hours shorten, chlorophyll production slows down and eventually stops. This allows reds, oranges, and yellows to show through. These colors are considered the true colors of the leaves on that particular tree!

Why don’t the leaves just stay their beautiful colors until the weather warms again? Why do they fall off? Some trees like those with needles are evergreen and keep their color and leaves throughout the year. However, deciduous trees shed their leaves. As the environment gets colder, trees need to protect themselves from freezing temperatures. They do this by slowly closing off nutrients and water to the stems of leaves until they die and fall off.

So, enjoy the fall leaves during peak season in Mariners’ Park! Happy leaf-peeping!

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