A website from UGA Cooperative Extension

We’ve already had two frosts this fall, and many colors are evident on trees in Wilcox County. I had to take a picture of this ‘fiery red’, sugar maple tree this week. It seems like the last few years, we haven’t seen good fall color. Since temperature is the greatest influence of fall leaf colors, the last 2 season’s warm winters didn’t have good effect.

Not only fall color, but this bright red is unique to our current conditions…. Dr. Kim Coder is with the UGA Warnell School of Forestry and writes a lot about fall color in trees. Dr. Coder explains that it’s 3 main pigments responsible for fall color. Carotene and xanthophyll give leaves their yellow and orange color. Anthocyanins make leaves turn red and purple. These pigments are in the leaves throughout the growing season of course but are masked by an overabundance of chlorophyll, making leaves look green.

It may not appear as ‘bright’ in the photo, but what is neat with this maple is that anthocyanin increases as sugar content of the leaves increase. Dr. Coder says, “If we have bright, sunny days and cool nights, a surplus of sugar is produced during photosynthesis and leaves become more brilliant red or orange. Plants that produce excess sugars, (i.e. maples, tupelo, oaks and Winged Eyonymus) often appear on ‘fire’ with reds and purples when nights are cool and days are sunny.”

Ginkgo produces mostly xanthophyll which is where it gets its yellow color.

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