Gotta love them carotenoids

I’ve been watching theses Sugar Maples (three, with a Pear among them for good measure) for several weeks as their autumn colors have slowly developed. You may remember that plants produce their own food via the chemistry we call photosynthesis. Visible light drives this remarkable process in which leaf pigments capture the sun’s energy and pass it to plant tissues where sugars are then produced. As the autumn days shorten it becomes less economical for plants to continue production so they shut down the photosynthetic machinery as winter approaches. As part of this process chlorophyll, the pigment which makes leaves green, is broken down and its building block components are transported back into the plant to be used elsewhere. The other photosynthetic pigments, including those that are red (anthocyanins), orange (carotenes), and yellow (xanthophylls), are now revealed – and these comprise the vibrant palette that we see during fall foliage season. Although we had rain overnight, the clouds were slow to gather yesterday afternoon and the sun showed through breaks when I passed this majestic trio. As the light hit the leaves they lit as if energized, glowed like wood embers, and then dampened altogether as the light diminished. After several encores an expansive cloud layer put an end to the show and to my photographic reverie.

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