The Scientific Reason for Leaves Changing Colors

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Everyone always loves the different color of leaves during the fall season, but nobody ever thinks of the scientific reasoning of why this happens. To find this answer, the search begins at the basic functions of life, cells. Within the plant cell, the dying off of chlorophyll causes the different color changes.

Plants are autotrophs. Autotrophs are living things that make their own food. Plants make their food within their cells by using sunlight, and chlorophyll. This process of plants making their own food with sunlight and chlorophyll is called photosynthesis.

The photosynthesis process involves sunlight, sugar, and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is called a photoreceptor. It is found in the chloroplasts of a plant cell that is within green plants, and is what gives green plants their green color. Chlorophyll has a special role in photosynthesis. Chlorophyll molecules absorb light energy. Chlorophyll is a complex molecule, which has lead to a number of variations of chlorophyll that take place among plants and other photosynthetic organisms.

Photosynthesis does not occur year round. It only occurs during the warmer weather seasons, which are spring and summer. As summer ends and fall comes, the hours of sunlight become less and less. This is how the trees "know" to prepare for winter. During winter and late fall, there is not enough water or warmth for photosynthesis. The plants will repose, and use up the food they stored during the summer. They begin to shut down their photosynthesis process, which is easily compared to their food-making factories. The green chlorophyll vanishes from the leaves. As the bright green color goes away, people are able to see yellow and orange colors. Small amounts of these colors have been in the leaves the entire time. People just could not see these other colors in the summer, due to the fact that they were covered up by the green chlorophyll. Leaves natural color aren’t green, and then change to yellow and orange. Instead,...
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