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News & Updates

Fall Color!
Posted on September 22nd, 2012 at 10:05 AM
Green Mountain Sugar Maple Leaves
We anticipate the time of year when the trees on the hillsides and in our backyard begin to blaze into their fall colors. The deciduous plants of Pennsylvania bring a great color change at the end of the growing year, making fall the season to plant trees and shrubs while selecting fall color for the landscape. By buying plants in the fall, the colors they will offer are evident. However, one must keep in mind that weather can affect the intensity and duration of fall color.

Sunlight and temperature does not affect the severity of yellow fall color, but the brilliance of red color is dependent on the presence of light and night temperatures below 45 degrees. For this reason, red fall color can vary each year. Plants of the same variety can differ in red fall color if they receive different amounts of light, especially afternoon sun.

The reason environmental factors affect red fall color more than yellow color is because fall colors form in two ways.

In the fall the production of chlorophyll, the pigment responsible for the green color in leaves, is stopped. As chlorophyll is degraded the yellow color caused by the accessory pigments, carotins and xanthophylls, can be seen. The yellow color in leaves is actually always present but masked by the dominant green during the spring and summer.

Red fall color, on the other hand, is manufactured in the fall. During sunny days leaves produce a lot of sugars. When cool nights follow, the sugars do not move out of the leaves rapidly. Sugars, therefore, accumulate in the leaves during the fall and are converted to the pigment anthocyanin which is responsible for red fall color.

Rainfall throughout the growing season and during the fall is a weather condition that does affect the duration and timing of both yellow and red fall colors. Under optimum moisture conditions the colorful leaves will remain on the trees for extended periods of time. If plants are subjected to drought the leaves will change early and may dry up while on the plant resulting in a short fall color that season.

None the less, the end of summer is always topped off by a beautiful display of reds, oranges, and yellows. So enjoy every minute and take a ride in the country!

Lori L. Follett
Production Manager
Johnston's Evergreen Nursery, Inc.
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