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Facts About Leaves

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Did you know leaves are not only green but also have other pigment color in them during the summer? They often have yellow pigment that is covered up by the green pigment color until fall, when the green starts to fade that is when the leaves turn colors! Have you ever wondered why leaves fall in the autumn? To find out you should keep reading.

Medium scale anatomy of a leafMedium scale anatomy of a leaf. © Zephyris.

Why do leaves fall?

The reason leaves fall off in the autumn is due to the water they contain. Leaves hold a lot of water in them, when winter comes around, the leaves will freeze. This could harm the internal part of the tree. So, when fall comes each year, the trees develop a type of seal or barrier between the branch of the tree and the stem of the leaf. That way when the leaves fall from the tree, the tree’s branches will be protected from the cold.

What causes the leaves to change color?

There are different chemicals in leaves that make them turn different colors, different trees produce different color leaves. Leaves contain chemicals, not all leaves have the same kind, however all leaves do have chlorophyll. This chemical gives them their green color. Some leaves contain anthocyanins, this chemical gets caught in the leaf when the chlorophyll is gone. Anthocyanins causes leaves to turn red and purple. There is also carotenoids, this chemical when left in the leaf causes the leaves to turn yellow, orange and brown.

Fine scale anatomy of a leafFine scale anatomy of a leaf. © Zephyris.

What are leaves good for?

Leaves are great for many things. They provide shade when the days get hot, they create protection for creatures that reside in the tree’s branches. They turn sunlight into starches and sugars, which is food for the tree. This process is called photosynthesis. When the leaves fall off, they create a layer on the ground that helps the ground absorb moisture, and when they start to decompose, they release nutrients into the soil that is used by other plants to grow.

Can leaves be use as compost?

Absolutely! Leaves are a great source of nutrients. They are considered a brown substance to counter all of the green substances that are added into the compost. You can even store them over the winter in plastic bags or trash cans to use for your spring compost piles.