What causes leaves to change color in the fall?

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Goodbye summer! It is officially fall as of 3:20 Wednesday afternoon and with the new season comes the beautiful foliage.

We are coming up on the time of year that many people look forward to in New England, leaf peeping season. Some of you might have noticed that some leaves are already starting to change color and this is just the start of it.

New England is home to some of the best and brightest fall foliage in the United States. People plan trips to New England and the northeast to see the vibrant colors. But why does this happen every single year?

Rick Harper, extension associate professor at UMass said, “We are looking at is a well orchestrated death. We are looking at mortality in the environment. The shutdown, dismantling and recycling of as much as what is possible in a leaf. A leaf is an organ, so leaves are planning to go through this sort of shutdown and dropping phase every year.”

As we head into October and November we will notice more and more leaves changing colors and falling to the ground. Wednesday is the fall equinox, which means there is 12 hours of daylight. As we head through the rest of the fall, the amount of daylight goes down. The amount of daylight is important because this is one of the very reasons this phenomenon occurs.

“As the daylight hours decrease, the plants respond accordingly and we see the beautiful colors that characterize our autumn season,” Rick Harper added. So at the end of the day, it is a bit of a trade off. Less daylight means more fall foliage.

Rick mentioned that even though we have seen a lot of rain this past summer, that could play a role in the amount of vibrant colors we’ll see.

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