It turns out that there are a lot of factors that determine the color of an autumn leaf. As days shorten and temperatures become crisp, the common green summer foliage is transformed into a vivid red, orange, yellow, or brown before it drops.
Three factors influence autumn leaf color: length of night, leaf pigments, and weather. As days grow shorter, and nights grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin.
The leaf pigments involved in color change include chlorophyll and carotenoids which are present in the leaf cells throughout the growing season and anthocyanins which are produced mainly in the autumn.
During the growing season, chlorophyll is being produced continually and broken down to produce green leaves. As the days shorten in the fall, chlorophyll production slows down and then stops. That’s when the carotenoids and anthocyanins show their colors.
How bright the colors are is determined by the temperature and moisture. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays.
The amount of moisture in the soil also affects autumn colors. A warm wet spring, favorable summer weather, and warm sunny fall days with cool nights should produce the most brilliant autumn colors.
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