Trees at park offer ‘spectacular’ color changes

Published 3:17 pm Thursday, October 8, 2015

By EMILY D. COOK / Community Columnist

Autumn, or what we like to call fall, is an absolutely gorgeous time of year at Oak Mountain State Park.

Oak Mountain State Park's various tree species, including oaks, maples and pines, undergo color changes in the fall. (Contributed)

Oak Mountain State Park’s various tree species, including oaks, maples and pines, undergo color changes in the fall. (Contributed)

One of those reasons why is the changing colors of the leaves.

The diversity of tree species found here in the park offer some spectacular color changes.

You will be able to find oaks, maples and other hardwoods, as well as pines.

What causes leaves to change colors? Three things – leaf pigments, length of night and weather.

There are three types of pigments in leaf that create the color – Chlorophyll, Carotenoids and Anthocyanins.

Chlorophyll is the green pigment and is found throughout the growing season, as is carotenoids, which give the yellow, orange and brown colors.

Most anthocyanins are produced in autumn, which will give the red and purplish red color when chlorophyll is no longer present.

As days grow shorter, and nights grow longer and cooler, biochemical processes in the leaf begin to paint the landscape with nature’s autumn palette.

The amount and brilliance of the colors that develop are related to weather conditions before and during the time the chlorophyll in the leaves is dwindling.

Temperature and moisture are the main influences. A succession of warm, sunny days and cool, crisp but not freezing nights seems to bring about the most spectacular color displays.

A late spring, or a severe summer drought, can delay the onset of fall color by a few weeks.

A warm period during fall will also lower the intensity of autumn colors.

A warm wet spring, favorable summer weather and warm sunny fall days with cool nights should produce the most brilliant autumn colors.

In most cases, we may not know why they change colors; all we know is that we like looking at the pretty colors.

Here at Oak Mountain, colors you might see are the crimson red of sourwood, the purplish red of dogwood, the russet brown of oaks, the golden yellow of tulip poplars and the orange red of some maples.

Come out to visit us during the fall to check out the beautiful colors.

Times of the leaves changing vary so maybe call before you come, or come more than once to watch the progression.

Remember that you keep Alabama State Parks open by visiting them.