Beautiful landscape of fall foliage | Front Range Arborists

4 Unbelievable Facts Behind Fall Foliage

There’s a lot to love about autumn – crisp weather, apple picking, pumpkin carving, Halloween – but most notably, the changing of the leaves. The beauty of the red, orange, and yellow that coats the ground and trees is unmatched.

If you love autumn as much as we do, you’ll enjoy these unbelievable facts about the season and its beautiful fall foliage.

Facts About the Fall Season 

While fall is also known as autumn, the season once had a third name as well. In 12th and 13th century Middle English, fall w`as called “haerfest,” which was the act of taking in crops. Eventually, it was known as “harvest” because the full moon closest to the autumn equinox is called the harvest moon.

So how did “fall” become the dominant name? In the early 1600s, people started moving into cities, and use of the term “harvest” lessoned. They started saying “fall of the leaf” to refer to the third season of the year, because the leaves would fall from the trees. Over time, “fall of the leaf” was shortened to “fall,” and it stuck.

How Fall Foliage Changes Color

Although we notice the leaves changing color in the fall, the red, orange, and yellow pigments are present in leaves all year round. The only difference is that during other seasons the pigments are primarily underneath the leaves’ surface.

The reason these beautiful colors come out in the fall is the change in sunlight. The change in day length (photoperiod) starts June 21, the longest day of the year, as the sun starts to move south, and the days become shorter. As the summer sun starts to wind down, the chemical chlorophyll breaks down, which brings out the hidden colors.

Chlorophyll is an important chemical that helps plants absorb energy from the sun that is eventually used to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars and starches. Its color is a deep green, causing leaves to appear green when this chemical is abundant.

In the fall, however, the chlorophyll begins to break down because of changes in both temperature and the amount of sunlight present each day. As the chlorophyll breaks down, the deep green color naturally begins to diminish as well, allowing the leaves’ other colors to pop out.

A Leaf’s Color Depends on The Species of Tree

A leaf’s color is typically a product of the species of tree on which it is found. This varies from tree to tree and is dependent on various other factors as well.

For example, the leaves on aspen trees are generally a golden yellow during the fall months. Leaves of some trees such as birches, tulip poplars, redbud and hickory, are always yellow in the fall, never red. The fall leaves of a few trees, including sugar maple, dogwood, and sourwood, are usually red but may also be yellow.

Benefits For the Ecosystem

Needles and leaves that fall to the ground are not wasted. Fallen leaves during this time of year are extremely important for the ecosystem, becoming a form of protection for tree seeds as they germinate during the winter.

They decompose and restock the soil with nutrients and make up part of the spongy humus layer of the forest floor that absorbs and holds rainfall. Fallen leaves also become food for numerous soil organisms vital to the forest ecosystem.

If you loved learning more about the history behind fall and its foliage, you may be starting to think about your own fall landscape. Front Range Arborists, Inc., is a local privately owned company that offers full-service tree and shrub care for the Colorado Springs area.

Our team of fully trained professionals and certified arborists will create a detailed estimate for all tree and shrub services to be performed on your valued landscape. Fill out our online form to get your free estimate today!