SuperTalk Mississippi

Why Leaves Change Color During the Fall

JACKSON, Miss. – The season of fall is upon us. While the changing of leaves to warm earthy colors may seem like magic, it’s not. It’s science. Since it may have been a while since you cracked open a textbook, News Mississippi decided to ask Dr. Mary Celeste Reese with Mississippi State University’s Department of Biological Sciences what exactly is going on when plants make that drastic change.

“The green leaves are caused by chlorophyll pigments, but there’s actually these another pigments inside of the leave call the carotenoids. It’s a whole class of different pigments ranging from yellows, to oranges, to reads. That pigmentation is masked by the chlorophyll pigment,” said Reese.

When trees go dormant during the winter, they break down chlorophyll to store energy so it can be recycled in the spring. When this happens, the pigmentation from the carotenoids become dominate.

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