Mom, Dad, Why Do the Leaves Change Color?
Feature Image of Mount Rainier National Park Photo Credit: Nation Park Service - by Sue Russell
It’s official, with Labor Day come and gone summer has also set and we begin to move towards the fall. The days get shorter and the nights longer. We’re starting to put on a few more layers of clothing, and we can feel the summer tan begin to fade away. But before you skip ahead and start planning your winter ski trip, take a moment to enjoy the ever changing colors of the leaves all around you.
No one does Fall better than Colorado. It’s an incredible time of year to take the family camping. You still get warm days for the kids to play, hike, explore, fish and swim, but the cooler nights scare away the bugs making the campfire dinners much more pleasant. And the changing of the leaves from green to golden, to brown, orange, red, yellow…you name it… it’s a sight to be seen.
Why do the leaves change color?
If you have kids, you know that they like asking questions. Questions are great, kids should ask all the questions in the world, because how else are they going to learn, but there is nothing more frustrating to a parent than a kid asking you about how the world works, and you have no idea how to answer. So in preparation for the turning of the leaves and a whole new blanket of color that will sweep over Colorado this fall, here’s the quick answer to a question you’ll probably get from your kids very soon: Mom, dad, why are they leaves changing color? Where did the green go?
You’re probably thinking, “oh, that has something to do with photosynthesis…or something”. Well, yes, you’re right, but that’s not going to help your kid much. So here’s what you say:
Photosynthesis is the process that helps plant turn light and carbon dioxide into food so they can grow big and strong. Inside the leaves is something called chlorophyll, which is green, and in the summer there is a lot of sunlight and water so the green chlorophyll covers the whole leaf making the leaves green during the summer months. This is when the plants and trees are busy making all the food they need so that they can survive through the winter months.
When fall and winter arrives, there is less sunlight and water to help the plant produce food. The trees will therefore rest and live off of the food they make during the summer. Much like a bear hibernates, or a chipmunk will save up nuts to get through the winter, the plant will also save up food for the long cold dark winter months. Because the trees stop producing food the green chlorophyll will disappear and we will begin to see colors like reds, yellows, browns and oranges shine through.
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