Fall Colors in the Park

Fall Colors in the ParkMadison Square Park is one of the best places to see the leaves changing to their fall colors. Throughout the year, most tree leaves are green, owing to a pigment in them that captures sunlight for photosynthesis. With the onset of fall comes shortening days that signal plants to lessen the production of this green pigment. This process causes the pigment to break down, revealing other colors that were hidden underneath. The yellows and oranges that make-up most tree’s fall colors are caused by pigments that are revealed once the green pigment is gone. However, browns, reds, and purples have their own unique explanations. Brown leaves are the colors of the cell walls of plants when there are no other pigments present. Reds and purples are caused by a pigment that is unique amongst those responsible for fall leaf colors; unlike the pigments that make leaves yellow, orange, or green, the red and purple pigment is produced only once the green pigment begins breaking down. This is part of the reason that fall colors, especially those of a red or purple hue, can be so variable from year-to-year, as certain conditions increase the amount of the red-purple pigment and lead to a more vibrant color show. The conditions that make for the best colors are bright light, mild drought, warm days, and cool but not freezing nights. Of note is that for most trees, the fall leaf color is the same from year-to-year, changing only in intensity. Red oak trees will always have red leaves, while English elms will always be somewhere in the greenish-yellow spectrum.