Celebrating the colours of Autumn

Autumn: for many of us, the most glorious season of the year, with all those hues of gold, yellow, orange, bronze and red.

But just why do these fabulous colours emerge? And what happens to the green leaves?

Without getting too bogged down in the science behind it, leaves get their colour from three pigments: green comes from chlorophyll, yellow from carotenes and reds from anthocyanins.

The pigments are all present within the leaves, but during Spring and Summer, the sun and light-worshipping green chlorophyll takes over, effectively hiding the other colours.

The arrival of shorter, cooler days breaks the chlorophyll pigment down, allowing the other pigments to suddenly become visible until eventually, they’re dominant.

So why aren’t Autumns colours always the same?

The answer is simple - it’s all down to the weather. If we get lots of very cold nights in Autumn, we’ll see more yellows because the temperatures will kill off the chlorophyll pigment and the carotenes will flourish.

Warmer nights, on the other hand, are good for anthocyanins, which is why we see more reds and fewer yellows if we have a mild Autumn.

Dry and sunny weather in Autumn has the same effect of accentuating the reds because it increases the sugar levels of leaves - something that anthocyanins love at this time of year.

This vibrant show of colour doesn’t last long, just a few short weeks, before the leaves fall from the trees and winter takes over - so we must make the most of it while we can. We reckon a woodland walk followed by warming roast dinner is just about the perfect way to spend an Autumn day!