Sometime in late September or early October, the leaves on the deciduous trees in the northern parts of Wisconsin begin to turn colors. And what a display it is! Some leaves turn brilliant red; others fiery orange. Some turn a shimmering gold. There’s even a rich purply-red. Why do leaves turn color?
These color are actually always present in the different leaves, but are masked by chlorophyll which our eyes perceive as green. Once the chlorophyll (which is the substance trees use to make their own food) beings to break down and separate from the proteins in the leaves, the underlying colors show through.
Among the first leaves to change color are the sumacs and Virginia creepers, followed by willows and ashes and then the red and sugar maples. Other trees follow, including birches, hickories and ending, roughly, with the oaks and beeches.
Keep track of the trees on your property or in a park near you. When do they start to turn? Which ones go first?
[Image: Courtesy of Mike Crowley; available for sale at his website Life in the Northwoods]