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About All That Fall Color...

As a landscape and nature photographer, probably my favorite time of year to shoot is autumn. My adopted home state of New Hampshire is amazingly beautiful during the season. While colors in many parts of the United States are lovely, in my book nothing comes close to what you'll see here - mainly due to the abundance of vivid red hues mixed in with the orange and yellow.

I was interested to read recently in Live Science about the striking difference between the colors in Europe versus the U.S. - particularly those parts of the States that, like New Hampshire, have so many trees that turn red. According to the article, most of the color in Europe of monochromatic. It's yellow, yellow and more yellow. Why is that? Evidently the mechanism that results in red hues requires quite a bit of energy from the tree. That perplexed scientists who wondered why, if the leaves are about to die anyway, the tree would do that.

The red is produced by pigments produced only in the autumn (unlike carotenoids, which produce the yellows and oranges and are manufactured all season long). Among other things, scientists think the red pigments keep pests from snacking on the leaves.

As trees developed and some species became deciduous, many also adapted by creating the red pigmentation as a means to fight off insects. Here's what author Andrea Thompson had to say: "In North America, as in East Asia, north-to-south mountain chains enabled plant and animal 'migration' to the south or north with the advance and retreat of the ice according to the climatic fluctuations. And, of course, along with them migrated their insect 'enemies'. Thus the war for survival continued there uninterrupted. In Europe, on the other hand, the mountains – the Alps and their lateral branches – reach from east to west, and therefore no protected areas were created. Many tree species that did not survive the severe cold died, and with them the insects that depended on them for survival."

No more insects, no more need for the red. Interesting.

We have the bugs to thank for the amazing show! 

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