I’ve always found the changing of the leaves an amazing event and the process of nature creating fall foliage is pretty cool. When a leaf has an abundance of chlorophyll, which is green in color, the leaf is green because that chlorophyll hides the other colors and pigments in the leaf. But as daylight hours shorten and the temperatures drop at night, the veins that carry fluids into and out of the leaf close off causing the intake of water and minerals into the leaf to decrease. That’s when the chlorophyll levels begin to decrease causing the leaves to turn. You can see in this leaf that the veins are still green while the leaf turns red.
My favorite time of foliage is the first couple weeks since red is my favorite color. I’m always telling guests if they want to see those beautiful red colors from the “sugar maples” that they should book their foliage trip early and not wait until Columbus Weekend. The red color comes from pigments in the leaf cells called anthocyanins which are the sames pigments that color cranberries, red apples, blueberries, cherries, strawberries, and plums. Unlike the carotenoids, which are the yellow and orange pigements always found in a leaf, these red pigments develop in late summer in the sap of the cells of the leaf. Their formation is caused by the breakdown of sugars in the presence of bright light. And we’ve had some spectacularly clear bright days this past week so the reds are really starting to pop.
So each morning I find myself being a “leaf peeper” out my own kitchen window to see more and more of the red sugar maples in the backyard and on the hills across to Mt. Washington changing. And no matter how many years I’ve lived in New England, I’m thrilled to experience New Hampshire’s fall foliage. I’m excited about this year’s foliage and can’t wait to share it in the next 3-4 weeks with our guests. I hope they’ll all pickup a leaf and take a little part of Bear Mountain Lodge home with them to enjoy.