Explaining autumn colours: where science meets art
Witnessing the changing colours of the leaves during the autumn is an enjoyable spectacle for many of us. However, the reason as to why this happens has been a source of much debate. David Wilkinson explores the scientific theories and knowledge as to why trees display such bright autumn colours and, as a result of this remarkable change, the connection formed between science and art.
Autumn in Wytham Woods, just west of Oxford. Many of the leaves have already fallen, allowing the low-angled sun to penetrate to the woodland floor. The older Beech Fagus sylvatica trees stand out dramatically, as they still have most of their leaves – yellow with carotenoid pigments in the autumn light. This annual display of autumn colours is one of the great natural-history spectacles of the temperate zone.