What Is Leaf-Peeping? Leaf-peeping is an American name for viewing and photographing the leaves changing colour in autumn, and even travelling to well-known areas, where there is more leaf-peeping to be had! Just in case you hadn’t noticed, now is the perfect time for leaf-peeping in the UK.
Most of us look forward to this time of year, to take a stroll through the woods, enjoy kicking the leaves under our feet and admire the beautiful colours of the trees changing from greens to the yellows, oranges, reds and golds, through the fresh autumn days.
Every year the same thing happens, the leaves change colour, some years more striking than others and the leaves fall from their trees, but the question we never think to ask is why?
Why Do Leaves Change Colour?
Deciduous actually means “the dropping of a part that is no longer needed”. The change of colour and eventual loss of leaves is all about chemicals. Chlorophyll is made during the summer months by the trees producing sugar from carbon dioxide and water, and the hot summer sunlight. This gives the leaves their green colour.
When autumn slowly begins, the drop in temperatures act as a signal to stop the chlorophyll production. Then, the trees own hidden pigments can be seen – carotene pigment for trees with yellow leaves, and anthocyanins for trees whose leaves turn red .
This year the blisteringly hot, dry summer means it may be less colourful this autumn, instead the leaves might be browner and crispier rather than reds and golds.
The best autumn colours are produced after plenty of moisture in the growing season, then dry, sunny days leading up to the beginning of autumn are followed by cool, dry nights without frost.
Which Trees Change Colour First in Autumn?
The first trees to start their colour change are the horse chestnut, hawthorn, elder, beech, maple with the oak following later. Other deciduous trees that drop their leaves include sycamore, common ash, alder, silver birch, hazel or cobnut, hornbeam, goat willow, rowan and mountain ash.
And Why Do Trees Shed Their Leaves in Autumn?
When leaves fall from the trees, it helps the trees to conserve water and energy. As the cold winter approaches, hormones in the trees trigger the process of “abscission” whereby the leaves are actively cut-off from the tree by specialized cells.
So why not get your wellies on and get leaf-peeping before it’s over for another autumn.