It has been quite some time since your Sunday Naturalist was on the trail, but it just so happens that this set of pictures was actually taken back in November 2014 but never published. Once fallen from trees, it turns out that leaves not only find their way underneath logs and bushes, but they also find their way into computer folders buried deep in one’s computer hard drive. Alas, and thankfully, lost items are sometimes found, and the colors in these fallen leaves seemed worth sharing.
So what’s going on here?
Well, as winter approaches many deciduous trees have a way of saving the valuable chemical compounds that they’ve built and stuffed into their leaves during the long summer days. Rather than let these valuable compounds drop to the ground, they break them down–molecule by molecule–and store them in the branches, stems, trunk, and roots during the winter. When the green pigments get broken down, many of the yellow, orange, red and brown pigments still remain, but these too get broken down eventually, which helps explain why leaves change colors on the tree (here’s a more scientific explanation if you prefer).
These leaves weren’t so lucky, however. A windy rainstorm knocked them off of the tree branches before their chemical compounds could be reabsorbed by their parent tree. Because of this untimely death, I’ve decided to call this photo collection, “Arrested De-Development.”