Take Time to See the Colors

Autumn color is peaking all around us. Enjoy the benefits of living in a leafy place. See photos from around Monmouth County.

Time to pay the taxes, time to vote, time to get to work, get to school, do the laundry, clean house, eat, sleep and on it goes.  “Hurry up, there isn’t any time.”  But we’re not on the Titanic and the ship isn’t about to sink.

So...take time to look around you and soak in the glorious colors of fall. Japanese maple leaves are now a gorgeous cranberry red; pears and sassafras leaves are bright yellow; oaks are red, browns and yellows; maples are a variety of reds, yellows and oranges; sweet gums are bright oranges; and euonymus shrubs are cherry red.  Beeches are still light green.  All these colors are accentuated by the darkness of the evergreens in all their varying shades – rhododendron, laurel, white pines, spruce, Douglas fir, and on it goes. 

Nature’s fall palette features four primary pigments: chlorophyll, which gives leaves their summer time shades of green, carotene, which produces yellows and oranges, tannin, which engenders browns, and anthocyanin, which creates reds and purples.

During the growing season, the leaves of broadleaf trees are busily producing sugars from carbon dioxide and water via the action of sunlight on chlorophyll, the process known as photosynthesis. Because sunlight breaks down chlorophyll, plants must continually replace it. In summer the abundance of chlorophyll causes leaves to appear green – even in species like beech, whose leaves hold considerable quantities of carotene and tannin.

The range and intensity of colors that develop are greatly influenced by the weather.  Low temperatures break down chlorophyll and promote the formation of the anthocyanins.  Dry weather limits water intake, thereby increasing the sugar concentration in sap. Favorable conditions – abundant sugar and plentiful daylight – spur production of anthocyanins, bringing brilliant reds, purples and crimsons to the fall landscape. Yellows, oranges and golds remain fairly steady from year to year, because tannins and carotene are always present.

Now while you wander to the mailbox, sit in the car at a traffic light or wait  to pick up the kids, take a good look around at our beautiful fall color. You might even consider going out for a walk around the block or at the park. And on Sunday when you have turned your clocks back to Standard time, you’ll even have an extra hour to go out and enjoy the foliage.  You don’t have to run the New York Marathon to do that!


Jenni Blumenthal is the Chair of the Holmdel Township Shade Tree Committee


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