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Fall Foliage

October 5, 2010

Location: Norwich, VT
My favorite tree is the sugar maple. It’s a remarkably generous tree, giving delectably sweet syrup each spring, cool shade in the summer and vibrant eye candy in the fall. This pale grainy hardwood makes beautiful furniture, and burns long and bright in my woodstove on the rare occasion that I have a few logs of it to through on the fire. As a photographer, I have a passion (obsession?) for photographing its colorful leaves each autumn. Likewise, the daily conversation from mid-September through mid-October inevitably turns to the state of the current year’s fall foliage. Is it peak color? Is this year better or worse than last year? And why?
All deciduous trees turn color in the fall just before dropping their leaves. As the number of daylight hours decreases, so does a trees ability to produce chlorophyll, which makes their leaves green. As chlorophyll production ceases, cartenoids which cause yellow, orange and brown leaf color and anthocyanins which cause reds (and blue fruit hues) become more prominent in the leaves of trees depending on the species. Among maples, fall leaf color is a way to identify the tree. Red maple turn bright red, whereas sugar maple turn orange and red. Black maple turn yellow, and striped maple simply lose all color.
Temperature and precipitation determine the brilliance of the landscape. The most glorious display occurs when it’s a wet spring, a sunny summer and a mild fall in which the nights are cool, but not below freezing. Is this year better than last year? This avid leaf-peeper can’t tell, but it sure seems as if peak color came a week earlier.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 7, 2010 1:57 pm

    Thanks for the beautiful photo. It does happen to be mislabled: these are leaves of red maple, Acer rubrum, not sugar maple, Acer saccharum. Sugar maple leaves have smooth leaf margins and more defined lobes. And just a typo alert, carotenoids are spelled like this. I think it has the same root as ‘carrot’. Thanks again for a nice entry!

  2. October 22, 2010 7:42 pm

    Good catch on the typos, George. Thanks for your comments. The original photo was labeled “Red Maple”, but the misspelling of “carotenoids” was all me. I think of it the same way as you, with the same root as “carrot”. Things that contain carotenoids have orange in them, like carrots. Glad for your comments! Thanks for reading my blog and checking in!

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