04 Nov The Science of Fall Color
Posted at 09:00h in Uncategorized
For almost all of the growing season, leaf color is dominated by chlorophyll. For good reason: chlorophyll is the pigment of photosynthesis. At the end of summer, other pigments accumulate in the leaves of deciduous plants. As the chlorophyll breaks down in the fall, the other leaves show and create the beautiful fall displays we all know and love.
These colors can be isolated by using a scientific technique called chromatography. We made a simple extract using the leaves and chemical liquid. Then we used paper to wick that liquid up and show the colors. The more soluble the pigment, the higher it moved up the paper.
Using chromatography, we can see ALL of the colors in these leaves. Xanthophylls bring the yellows, carotenoids the oranges, and anthocyanins the reds and blues. In some pictures, especially the still-green pawpaw leaf, you can see not one but TWO types of chlorophyll! The blue green one is chlorophyll A, the yellow green one is chlorophyll B.
We hope you enjoy seeing all of the changing leaves in Cincinnati Parks. When visiting, be sure to take some pictures and tag us on social media.