Fall’s change of col­ors an amaz­ing process

Serve Daily - - EMPOWERING LIBERTY - By Ed Helmick

Lookingup the moun­tain, we see splashes of red from the canyon maple (Acer gran­di­den­ta­tum) leaves, which are the first fall col­ors of the sea­son. The aspen trees (Pop­u­lus tremu­loides) with their bril­liant yel­low leaves will be next. It is com­monly un­der­stood the fall col­ors ar­rive as a re­sult of shorter days and cooler tem­per­a­tures. How­ever, the chang­ing of the leaves ap­pears to have started ear­lier this year. Utah State Re­gional Hor­ti­cul­tur­ist Jay Dee Gun­nell be­lieves this may be due to the drought the re­gion has ex­pe­ri­enced this year. By the time you read this in early Oc­to­ber, the fall col­ors in Utah County may have peaked for this year.

The col­ors we see in the tran­si­tion from the warm grow­ing sea­son to the dor­mant plant life of win­ter are a won­der­ful story of the cre­ator’s de­sign when you think about it. Amaz­ing chem­istry takes place in the leaves of trees dur­ing the warm growth sea­son. The green chloro­phyll in the leaves ab­sorbs sun­light en­ergy and trans­forms car­bon diox­ide and wa­ter into car­bo­hy­drates for the tree’s growth. With the re­duced day­light and tem­per­a­tures of the fall sea­son, the leaves stop their food- mak­ing process and the chloro­phyll breaks down, which re­sults in the green color fad­ing away. This al­lows the red, yel­low and or­ange col­ors to be­come vis­i­ble and pro­duce the col­ors of fall sea­son.

Now there is more to this amaz­ing story. As the leaves are chang­ing color, an­other change is tak­ing place as a layer of cells de­vel­ops where the stem of the leaf is at­tached to the tree. This growth of a cork-like ma­te­rial even­tu­ally sev­ers the leaf from the tree and seals the wound where the leaf stem had been at­tached to the tree. This oc­curs so tree sap does not leak out. The leaf falls off or blows off the tree. This is tree sur­vival; the tree can­not af­ford to sup­port the leaf sys­tem dur­ing the win­ter months. When you think about the rest of the story of the fall col­ors, it is an in­cred­i­ble adap­ta­tion to the com­ing sea­son.

The photo at the top of this ar­ti­cle was taken up Pole Heaven Road, which is a dirt road off the Left Fork of Hob­ble Creek. This road be­comes very rocky af­ter the first mile and is suit­able for high-ground- clear­ance ve­hi­cles only. This even­tu­ally leads to Camel Pass and a dra­matic view look­ing down Lit­tle Rock Canyon to­ward Maple­ton and Springville. Fol­low­ing the road north will even­tu­ally con­nect you with Squaw Peak Road and Provo Canyon High­way, High­way 189. This is a spec­tac­u­lar fall color drive if you have an off- road ve­hi­cle.

Fall col­ors are seen in this photo which shows the view down Lit­tle Rock Canyon.

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