2012-12-06 / Front Page

Color explosion settles across East Texas area

By Terry Cannon Editor


These fruitless pear trees turn a rich burgundy during the fall. These fruitless pear trees turn a rich burgundy during the fall. Mother Nature has been busy with her paint brushes this fall.

If you need convincing, just look out your window.

Brilliant fall colors are all around us, decorating trees with shiny golds, bold oranges and deep reds. The bad part, as any homeowner knows, is as beautiful as they are leaves pose a problem once they are off the trees. (More about that later).

The impetus for this explosion of color across East Texas can most likely trace its roots to a wetter-than-usual spring and summer.

The moisture, according to those who know such things, is gratefully accepted by our trees and put to good use when fall arrives and sunlight is in short supply.

The timing of this Technicolor display is regulated by the calendar, when autumn signals longer nights. This is the most consistent of the factors, since rainfall and food supplies vary from year to year.

As days grow shorter and nights grow longer and cooler biochemical processes in the leaf trigger the color change mechanisms.

Green, of course, is the dominant color for leaves during the spring and summer. What is often overlooked, however, is that green isn’t the leaf’s true color.

Thanks to chlorophyll, which is the necessary ingredient for photosynthesis (the chemical reaction that enables plants to use light from the sun to manufacture sugar for their food), leaves remain green until autumn arrives.

As cooler weather arrives, trees pull chlorophyll from the leaves and store it for the tree’s winter dormant time. This allows the leaf’s true color to emerge.

Two other colors in nature’s palette include carotenoids, which are responsible for the hues in certain vegetables and anthocyanins, which are water soluble and occupy the watery liquid in leaf cells.

All of which leads to the spectacular show courtesy of Mother Nature.

COLOR IN VARIETY

East Texans are blessed with several types of trees to enjoy, from pine trees to Chinese maples. This collection of color is a welcome respite indeed from summer’s all too often tortilla-hued landscapes.

“One thing people in our area can count on is the tremendous variety of trees,’’ said Smith County Master Gardener Mary Claire Rowe of Tyler. “The contrast is amazing,’’ she said. “You have so many trees that are mixed in with the pine trees that it makes for some gorgeous color.’’

Sassafras and Chinese maples are just two of the most magnificent color carriers in the fall, she said. “When the (Chinese) red maples are planted in a row, you can see just how different each tree is,’’ she said. “The only way you will get identical trees is to take a cutting and grow it that way.’’

PILES OF LEAVES

Leaves begin to fall when the tree has collected all the sugars and other nutrients from the leaf. Having achieved its responsibility to the tree, the leaf falls off creating the other harbinger of autumn – piles of leaves.

Don’t bag them, Ms. Rowe said, mulch them.

“People make a big mistake in bagging leaves,’’ she said. “They just take up lots of space in landfills.’’

She said it’s easy to mulch the leaves and turn them into compost.

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