Autumn leaves: and the compounds that make the colors of fall

Autumn leaves and the compounds that cause their colours

What a lovely time of year—when the leaves of deciduous trees in many forests change from the deep greens of summer to the yellows, oranges and reds of fall. But what makes the leaves change colour and what compounds are responsible for Nature's spectacular display?

We all know the magical green chlorophyll, but leaves also contain carotenoids. As the chlorophyll fades, the golden oranges of these carotenoids start to shine through. You may recognise one carotenoid, beta-carotene, from carrots. Another carotenoid, xanthophyll, is responsible for the beautiful bright yellows. The leaves of some trees also produce anthocyanin as Autumn begins that gives beautiful deep reds.

Also see: what causes seasons.

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