Wetland Career Training
Get Adobe Flash player

Fall Colors

The Swamp Stomp

Vol. 13 Issue 42

It is that time of year again when the trees explode with color.  I thought it might be a nice diversion to get way from the government nonsense we often talk about and reflect on the beauty around us.  This often reminds me of a sort of famous quote from the movie, Joe Versus the Volcano.  In the movie Patrica Graynamore tells Joe, “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake, and they live in a state of constant, total amazement.”

Joe vs the Volcano

I cannot tell you how true this is.  The simple contemplation of a leaf could to take you a lifetime to fully understand.  Even then I am sure we would only just be scratching the surface.  So get outside and be amazed!

The leaves change color largely due to a reduction in the production of chlorophyll.  Once this green pigment is gone the remaining colors stand out for awhile.  I always thought it pretty amazing that these colors were there all the time.  We just could not see them.  It makes you wonder what else we might be missing.

Each tree species has its own color.  However, disease temperature, latitude, elevation and amount of daylight all affect the colors.  The timing of the peak colors vary as well.  All of this leads to a wide array of colors.

Reds and Purples

The superstars of colors are the sugar maples of New England.  Anthocyanins turn these trees red.  These pigments are only found in about  10 percent of all trees in the temperate zones.  Maples to the north and black gum to the south are the most common for the reds.  Purple is also attributed to this same pigment and can be found in some of the ashes and sumacs.  The anthocyanins are produced when the tree undergoes stress.  We loose our hair and these trees turn red.


The yellow pigment is due to the presence of carotenoids.  This pigment is found in many plants and is responsible for the orange in carrots.  The pigment is there all year, but it masked by the green chlorophyll.  There are a number of species that turn yellow.  The champion is the quaking aspen.  Its bright yellow is striking.  Other species that turn yellow include:  hickories, willows, birches, beeches, cherries, basswood, ginkgo, poplar, chestnut, elm. locust, sycamore and pecan.


Okay this is not the most dramatic color, but it adds a nice contrast to the others.  When the chlorophyll decays we are left with brown.  Sometimes tannins help make the leaves brown.  Brown can also come form a mix of green and red pigments.  Brown is a very underrated color.  It can be quite complicated.

Most of the oaks turn brown at the end of the growing season.  However, many species like the beech will hold onto its leaves and they eventually turn brown.  There can be quite a variety of brown colors.  From the light tan of the beech to the dark brown of the sycamore.  Some of the magnolias turn a rich chocolate brown when there leaves die off.

The richness of color in the forest is spectacular to see.  Get outside and enjoy this beautiful show.

“I tell you one thing, though. Wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re gonna take this luggage with us!”

Have an amazing week!

– Marc



Leave a Reply

Free Newsletter

Weekly Swamp Stomp


Click to Subscribe

It's Free!

Soil Order Profile Assessment

Free Soil Order Profile Assessment

What soil order matches your personality?
Try our Free Soil Order Profile Assessment to find out!
It’s fun!


The Swamp Store
Swamp Store

Stop in to sign up for a class or just browse some of our cool Swamp Stuff!

Customer Support
Help Frog

Keep Up With All of Our Classes

Wetland Classes
Free Plant Guides
Contact Us

Toll Free

WET Mission
Rate Us
Please rate our site.