What Causes Fall Foliage Colors in New Hampshire?

NH Foliage ColorsDid you know that those brilliant fall colors you see have actually been in the leaves all summer? It’s true. They were hiding behind the chlorophyll. As fall approaches, the chlorophyll begins to break down to reveal the true pigment of the leaf. The brightest colors occur when late summer is dry and autumn has bright sunny days and cool nights.

But, some folks can’t simply enjoy the color without knowing what causes the fall foliage colors in New Hampshire. So – for them – here’s a quick breakdown of the various pigment types and the foliage colors they produce:

Chlorophyll (Green)

Chlorophyll is the bioactive compound that helps trees and plants turn sunlight into food. It is the dominant color seen in most leaves. With cooler weather and shorter days, the tree shuts down its food production and begins to store sugars to survive the winter.

 Anthocyanin (Red)

Unlike other pigments that always exist in the leaf, anthocyanins are actually produced as the chlorophyll is broken down. This is the striking red color that is so popular here in New Hampshire with Red Maples, Scarlet Oaks, and Red Sumacs.

Carotene (Orange)

If you are thinking that “carotene” sounds like “carrot,” you would be absolutely correct. The same orange pigment found in carrots give Sugar Maples their bright signature bright-orange coloring that blankets many hills and country roads throughout New Hampshire.

Xanthophyll (Yellow)

Xanthophyll – the pigment that starts with an X but sounds like a Z – can be seen from early the fall in trees like beech and ash, then later in birches and some oaks. Xanthophyll also gives squash and corn its bright yellow color.

Interesting, isn’t it? Well…now that we got that out of the way, let’s sit back and soak in the incredible natural beauty that is classic New England!

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