RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – It’s something we look forward to every year – the leaves changing colors, lighting up our hillsides with a gorgeous array of colors.
But why does this happen?
In short, the leaves are dying.
It is a little morbid to think about something so beautiful in that way, but that’s the short answer.
The long answer is tied to something called chlorophyll.
Chlorophyll is found within cells of all plants, including leaves, and plays an important role in photosynthesis, which keeps plants alive.
The chlorophyll absorbs sunlight which gives the plant, or in this case leaf, the energy it will then use to break down carbon dioxide and water into food.
This happens most often during the spring and summer months, leaving the leaves bright and green.
While we see the green more vibrantly, there are other pigments within the leaves, the green is simply outshining the other colors.
During the fall as the temperatures cool and the days have less sunlight, the chlorophyll is not creating as much food for the plant and starts to break down.
As it breaks down, the green pigment fades away leaving behind the yellow, orange, and red we so often associate with fall foliage.
The color of the leaves depends on the type of tree.