We are all enjoying and appreciating the exceptional fall colors this year. The yellows are especially rich, and the reds are especially vivid. What is going on when the green leaves turn colors and why are the colors so spectacular this year?
We know that the green color of the leaves comes from the pigment chlorophyll that makes it possible for plants to capture energy from sunlight and use it to make the sugars that feed the whole planet. When the long days of summer get shorter and shorter, highlighted by the fall equinox this year on September 22, the plants get less and less sunlight and less and less energy to make chlorophyll. When leaves contain less chlorophyll, other pigments become more dominant.