Witnessing Fall Color

In Athens, Georgia, fall color is nearing its end. It typically peaks in late October or early November. Today, in mid-November, the large landscapes of color are gone. We’re left with some colorful trees, maybe particular branches or individual leaves. It is a good time to experience retirement and walk around the yard and woods with an eye for small beauty.

Why Leaves Turn Color

As summer fades, the nights cool and days shorten. Often there is less rain. New cells begin to grow into abscission layers between leaves and their branches. These new cells interfere with water flow into the leaves, and the trees’ metabolism slows. Leaves gradually stop making chlorophyll, which gives them their green color, and the existing chlorophyll begins breaking down.

Leaves have other pigments—reds, yellows, oranges—and they are longer lasting. As the leaves begin to die and the chlorophyll breaks down, the other colors grow bold and vivid. Soon we have the brilliant panoramas of fall.

Eventually the abscission layers form completely, all the pigments break down and the starved leaves fall. Some fall early from wind or rain, leaving colorful blankets under the trees, and others fall later, after their bright colors fade into the grays and browns of winter.

The following gallery shows eight images from around the woods at our home. Maybe “Leaves in the Small” would be a title. To enter the gallery, click on the first photo, and press ESC to exit.