One can search near or far this time of year to reap the glory of all the brilliant colors of fall. You can search in our native Indiana or Michigan. Or you can travel to Pennsylvania or the upper reaches of the Northeast in the U.S. While these are all beautiful locations and have extensive woodland areas, I have only to search here in Goshen and surrounding rural areas to find beauty beyond imagination.
As our city expounds, this is the Maple City. These deciduous trees are some of the most colorful of all, blasting with bright yellow, red, pink, orange, and bronze, often in combinations on a single tree. Combined with the yet-to-turn greens, these stately maples make for an unforgettable sight.
Without getting too technical, leaf color changes for a reason. When temperatures get cold and we have fewer daylight hours, leaves stop producing chlorophyll, the ingredient that allows them to absorb sunlight and create energy for the development of the tree. Because chlorophyll is sensitive to cold, production will diminish more quickly in cold weather and frost conditions.
The yellows and the oranges are actually there all the time, but just covered by the green of the chlorophyll. Reds, on the other hand are anthocyanins which, unlike the carotenoids that appear in the yellows and oranges, remain somewhat of a mystery to science. The red serves as a sun screen to block out harmful radiation of the sun, and shade the leaf from too much light.
This same red in leaves is an early signal of tree stress that might occur when it develops a fungal disease, suffers from a lack of moisture in drought conditions, has a chip off its trunk bark by a lawnmower or a car, or scraped by a dog chain. It is speculated that by creating the red, it helps the leaf to stay attached, thereby increasing its ability to absorb some of the good things before its fall and using those resources for better development in the next growing season.
I’ve found that some of the best places to find fall colors is in the parks or on golf courses that normally have an abundance of trees. (I’ve hit most of them on the golf courses where I play.)
I never cease to be amazed at nature’s beauty, especially in the fall season. After just returning from a short Colorado vacation that included a trip into the Rocky Mountains, I witnessed the transformation of summer to fall with trees mostly in hues of yellow. Aspens are dominant in and around the Denver area and west into the Rockies. Even with just the predominately yellow colors it was breathtaking.
We stayed overnight in the higher elevations of the mountains only to awake to a steady blast of snow that covered the roads and landscape. Thankfully, after waiting the morning out, it had melted on the road surface making our trip down the mountain a safe one.
Tom Yoder is a master gardener who resides in Goshen. His column appears weekly.