Fall chroma promises to be spectacular; maximize your color and air quality!
The show is about to begin. Get your popcorn ready. The greatest display of fall color, possibly ever in our area, is happening before our eyes. If you’re originally from New England, it might seem average, but this could well be the most vivid and long-lasting display of woodland autumn hues in middle Tennessee history.
So, what makes this year different than any other? Why would the color be more intense and long lasting this year? I’m glad you asked! There are several variables that strongly affect the degree of pigmented intensity trees produce.
As trees grow during the spring/summer, chlorophyll is continually being supplied to the foliage. Chlorophyll gives the leaves their green color. As the nights get longer in the early fall, the cells that connect the leaf to the stem divide rapidly, but they cannot expand. This changing of the cells forms a region called the abscission layer. This blocks the movement of the nutrient rich sap to the leaves. Once the chlorophyll production is blocked from the leaves, green disappears completely. The lack of chlorophyll allows the yellow (xanthophylls) and orange (carotenoids) pigments to be seen. The red and purple pigments (anthocyanins) are made from the sugars that are held inside the leaf. Once chlorophyll departs, these remaining pigments are responsible for the vivid chromaticity of autumn.
To this point, springtime tornadoes aside, our weather has been nearly perfect. We managed to go through the summer without drought conditions. It did get dry on a few occasions, but never for extended periods of time that would have produced stress on trees. Whenever we needed rain, we got it. September can be brutal on trees. Not this year. We neither had high temperatures or excessive cloudy conditions. Additionally, an abundance of cool, but frost-free nights throughout the fall, until last week, has also kept our collective arbor display conditions near perfect.
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