Autumn Leaves' Brilliant Colors Good For Trees

Air Date: 10/29/2007
Source:
Scientific American
Creator:
Karen Hopkin
Air/Publish Date:
10/29/2007
Event Date:
10/29/2007
Resource Type:
Article
Copyright:
n/a
Copyright Date:
2007
Clip Length:
-

This 2007 Scientific American news brief reports on findings that nutrient-poor soil produces more red pigment in autumn tree leaves. Source: Scientific American, October 29, 2007

Autumn Leaves' Brilliant Colors Good For Trees

October 29, 2007

The bright red leaves of autumn deliver more nutrients to the trees than they would without the brilliant coloration. Karen Hopkin reports.

Fall is here and across the country, leaves are turning their traditional autumn colors. And as always, the sight of so many trees decked out in brilliant reds, yellows, and golds, prompts leaf-peepers, kindergarteners, and even scientists to ponder—how come they do that?

After all, it takes energy to produce all those pretty pigments. So why would a tree bother to do it, if those leaves are only gonna turn brown and fall off, anyway?

Now, scientists at the University of North Carolina think they know the dirty secret: it’s the soil. Surveying the sweetgum and maple trees in a nature preserve in Charlotte, the North Carolina researchers found that trees that grew in nutrient-poor soil produced more red pigment, results they just presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America​.

Their findings back a discovery made in 2003, by a researcher in Montana, who found that blocking the production of red pigments, in plants that like to make them, renders their leaves unusually sensitive to sunlight. These super-sensitive leaves deliver fewer nutrients to the plant.

So when the soil is poor, it would make sense to make pigment, to keep those leaves working longer. Which is good for the trees—and for the peepers.

 

Close NBC Learn

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

Videos on this page are not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on the footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

INTERNATIONAL VISITORS

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games videos are only available to visitors inside the United States due to licensing restrictions on the Olympics footage used in the videos.

FILTERING

If you are trying to view the videos from inside a school or university, your IT admin may need to enable streaming on your network. Please see the Internet Filtering section of our Technical Requirements page.

DVDs AND OTHER COPIES

The Science of the Olympic Winter Games is not available on DVD at this time due to licensing restrictions on on Olympic footage.

DOWNLOADING VIDEOS

Subscribers to NBC Learn may download videos and play them back without an internet connection. Please click here to find out more about subscribing or to sign up for a FREE trial (download not included in free trial).

Still have questions?
Click here to send us an email.

Close NBC Learn

Choose your product

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For NBC Learn in Blackboard™ please log in to your institution's Blackboard™ web site and click "Browse NBC Learn"

Close NBC Learn

If you have received a new user registration code from your institution, click your product below and use the "Register now" link to sign up for a personal account.

NBC Learn K-12 product site
NBC Learn Higher Ed product site

For further assistance, please contact our NBC Learn Support Team and we'll be happy to assist you.

Start Your Free
day
Day Trial!