Local color brightens up the autumn

The fiery warmth of red, orange and yellow leaves can take the chill out of brisk autumn days. As the weather turns co
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

The fiery warmth of red,

orange and yellow leaves can take the chill out of brisk autumn days.

As the weather turns colder, area trees are getting ready to show their true colors.

Lois TerVeen, naturalist and program supervisor at Erie MetroParks, said that chlorophyll, the food-making part of the plant, is what gives the leaves their green color.

When cool, sunny days and cold nights signal the tree that winter is on its way, the tree prepares to go dormant for the winter. Food production stops during dormancy, so the tree no longer needs the chlorophyll.

"As the chlorophyll recedes, the leaves' true colors are revealed," TerVeen said.

Maples, for example, will turn bright reds and oranges, while oak leaves will become a deep shade of purple or brown, TerVeen explained.

"It would help to have sunny days and cold nights to draw out the chlorophyll and reveal these colors," she said.

TerVeen also said the summer droughts followed by rain and more droughts, along with an unusually warm September may affect when the leaves will change and how vibrant their colors will be.

"The overall affect is that the colors aren't going to be as vivid as they have been in the past," said Jane Beathard, spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

According to ODNR, peak color is still two weeks away for most parts of the state, which is slightly later than originally predicted.

Warmer temperatures keep pushing the peak season back, but Ohioans should be seeing color changes.

TerVeen said that areas along the Huron and Vermilion rivers can have spectacular scenery this time of year.

Ohio is also home to 74 state parks, 20 state forests and 131 state nature preserves, which can be great places to find some fantastic fall foliage.

What about pine trees?

They lose their leaves too, TerVeen said.

"Needles are thick, waxy leaves, and they can withstand the winter," she explained. But the pine trees will still shed these needles. That's why a sizable pile of brown needles can often be found at the base of pine trees.