By Montana Grant

Posted: September 30, 2021


Leaves are leaving. Each Fall, the seasonal conditions change. As the temperatures drop, so do the leaves.

Montana is home to many evergreens, pine trees, year around greenery. Dispersed among these forests are Deciduous trees, which shed their foliage each Fall.

The process of leaves changing colors starts well before the leaves leave. Abscission begins as the long summer days shorten, heat fades, humidity drops, and the leave stem toughens.

Leaves are the food factory for trees. Chlorophyll in the leaves uses the sun’s energy to convert CO2 and water into sugar, which feeds the tree. As the season changes, less food is created by the leaves. Eventually, the cells in the leaves degenerate and the stem seals itself off.

Leaves of different colors have different secondary pigments. When the Tree’s Leaves are in full food production, green chlorophyll is dominant. Secondary pigments are the result of other nutrients and minerals, consistent with each tree species.

Xanthophyll is the pigment that creates yellow leaves, Carotene produces yellow orange, while other pigments produce the bronze, crimson, or purple colors.

Once the leaves fall onto the ground, they provide additional nutrients back to the soil and environment. This harvest of nutrient rich material can be composted in the garden, mulched in the yard, insulate plants, protect the soil, and reduce the need for additional fertilizer. Trees give back to the soil, that they needed to grow.

This is a colorful and perfect way to recycle!

Montana Grant