What causes the leaves to change color?

Chlorophyll keeps the leaves green in the spring and summer


SOUTH HADLEY & HADLEY, Mass. (WWLP) – People from near and far flock to New England when the leaves change, a process many people take for granted without knowing what’s actually happening to the trees.

Saturday’s weather was just perfect for heading up to Skinner State Park in central Hampshire County to enjoy the hiking and the foliage.

“There’s some very pink looking leaves and oranges and the really bright reds are nice,” said Lia Ciemny from Groton

Not only are the views breathtaking at the summit, an elevation of almost 1000 feet, but the leaf change is further along than many places in the lower Pioneer Valley.

Trees get their energy from the sun’s rays and convert that energy into food. The chemical chlorophyll in the leaves helps that energy conversion happen. But as temperatures start cooling and the days get shorter, the tree starts shutting down.

When people say that the leaves change color what’s really happening is the chlorophyll is breaking down and disappearing. That disappearance takes the green color away with it, revealing other colors like reds, yellows and oranges.

The weather can have an impact on the colors the leaves change to before dropping to the ground.

Wet Septembers and Octobers can lead to a dull color and an early frost can make for less brilliant red leaves.

“This year has been great for the reds and yellows. Orange is good too. It’s perfect. I think probably from the drought, it’s happened a lot sooner than usual and luckily there’s no rain this weekend,” said Jaime Lebreton from Granby.

Most of Western Massachusetts should start seeing peak color over this next week.

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