Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Leaves are colored by molecules called pigments. The pigment that causes leaves to be green is chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is important for plants to make food using sunlight. During spring and summer when there is plenty of sunlight, plants make a lot of chlorophyll.

In autumn when it starts to get cold, some plants stop making chlorophyll. Instead, those plants break down chlorophyll into smaller molecules. As chlorophyll goes away, other pigments start to show their colors. This is why leaves turn yellow or red in fall.

The color change usually happens before the leaves fall off of the tree. Why might that be? It takes a lot of energy to make chlorophyll. If the plants break down the chlorophyll and move it out of their leaves before the leaves fall, plants save energy. The plants can reabsorb the molecules that make up chlorophyll. Then, when it’s warm and sunny enough to grow again, the plants can use those molecules to remake the chlorophyll. That way the plants don’t have to make chlorophyll from scratch.


Picture Credit : Google