When the leaves change color in the fall, it is a grand sight. Gold, burgundy, fiery red, orange, yellow and various shades of each, are the colors of fall.

Rome is a beautiful, picturesque city, especially in the fall. Mt. Alto has a panoramic view of Rome’s seven hills. Clocktower Hill has beautiful red maples as well as those glorious yellow ginkgo leaves. The sidewalk, next to Forest Hotel, is carpeted with yellow gingko leaves every fall. These places, here in Rome, are all locations where you can take magnificent photographs of the changing colors of leaves every fall.

The pigments in leaves are responsible for the vibrant color changes every fall. The chlorophyll gives the leaves their green color. Throughout the spring and summer months, chlorophyll is constantly replaced in the leaves. As the nights get longer in the early fall, transportation of materials from the leaf to the branch and from the roots to the leaves is blocked. As the chlorophyll is blocked from the leaves, it disappears completely from them. The lack of chlorophyll allows the yellow and orange pigments to be visible. The red and purple pigments are manufactured from the sugars that are trapped in the leaf. These pigments in leaves are responsible for the vivid color changes in the fall.

Weather influences how the leaves look

I’ve never been well-versed on how the weather influences the way the leaves look in the fall. That is, too much heat, too much rain, not enough rain and such has a bearing on the colors of the leaves. I did a little research and learned that temperature, sunlight and soil moisture all play a specific part in how the leaves will look in the fall.

Abundant sunlight and low temperatures cause the chlorophyll to be destroyed more rapidly. Cool night air with a lot of daytime sunshine promote the formation of more red and purple pigments. Freezing conditions destroy the leaf’s ability to manufacture the red and purple pigments. Early frost will end the colorful foliage. Drought during the growing season can cause the leaves to drop before they change color. The best weather for brilliant fall foliage is a growing season with ample moisture followed by a dry, cool and sunny autumn with warm days and cool nights without frost.

Enjoying the leaves of fall

This year, it seems, the changing colors of the leaves have not been as spectacular as in recent years. I wonder if it might be because we had unrelenting heat that lasted well into fall. Nevertheless, I’ve enjoyed the scenery this year. Recently, on a drive through Adairsville, I was delighted with the leaves. The dominant color was gold.

Tennessee orange

A couple of years ago, I went to Nashville for Thanksgiving. I’d never been to Nashville. It was a beautiful drive and when I got through Chattanooga, the absolute dominant color of the leaves was orange. In fact, the leaves were all orange. Truly. There was no yellow or burgundy. Only orange. I remember thinking that must be why the University of Tennessee chose orange for their school color.

An enduring memory of fall leaves

Years ago, when my grandmother passed away, we were at the cemetery after her funeral. Located in rural Whitfield County, the cemetery sits in a V formed by the two roads on each side of the cemetery.

It was the end of October and the leaves were at the height of the color change. It was a little after 3 p.m. and a school bus came down the road, passed the cemetery and stopped. Some leaves fell from the oak trees along the side of the cemetery. The leaves were vibrant gold oak leaves, fiery red maple leaves, burgundy, and yellow. Every year, if the leaves in the fall change to particularly vivid gold and burgundy, I think of that October afternoon at the cemetery in Whitfield County and how beautiful the leaves were. It took away some of the sting of the loss of my grandmother.

The highlight of fall

This year, even though the changing colors of the leaves have been a trifle disappointing, I hope you will enjoy seeing them anyway. Along with football, and cooler temperatures, the changing colors of the leaves is one of the most enjoyable highlights of fall.

Native Roman Pam Walker is a paralegal, a writer, avid cyclist, history enthusiast and ardent reader of Southern fiction. Readers may email her at pamterrellwalker@gmail.com.

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