Leaf peepers delight in fall smorgasbord

Laura Beaton
Staff Writer
A gorgeous red-leafed maple in front of Quincy High School is a welcoming sight on a crisp, sunny fall day. The row of maple trees in front of QHS is one of the nicest displays of foliage in Quincy. Photo by Laura Beaton

It’s that time of year when the leaves on deciduous trees change color and create a spectacular and colorful landscape.

Plumas County is one of the few regions in the world that boasts such showy autumn displays.

The color of leaves alters in the fall due to chemical changes that occur because of shorter, colder days.

During the growing season, photosynthesis takes place in leaf cells that contain the green pigment chlorophyll. The photosynthetic process produces life-sustaining food for each plant or tree.

Leaves also contain yellow and orange pigments, such as carotene, which are usually invisible, overwhelmed by the chlorophyll.

But when shorter autumn days and lower temperatures descend, leaves stop producing food and begin conserving energy for the long, cold winter ahead. The chlorophyll breaks down, and the yellow and orange colors become visible.

At the same time, other chemical changes occur and cause yellow, red and even blue pigments to form.

Much like the blended colors on a painter’s palette, the mixtures of pigments create a colorful mélange of autumn foliage.

Plumas County is fortunate to contain several varieties of trees that present brilliant foliage.

Bracken ferns, willows, black cottonwoods, quaking aspens, big leaf maples and silver maples exhibit yellow, orange, red and even purple leaves.

Mountain dogwoods add splashes of red while California black oaks contribute an orange hue. Indian rhubarb, found along creeks and wetlands, adds another brilliant dash of red to forests, creating artful canvases and tapestries of foliage.

Some trees have leaves of several different colors gracing their limbs. Leaf color may be affected by sunlight exposure, causing some leaves to turn red while others, in the shade, remain yellow or fade to brown.

Whether you’re interested in the scientific explanation or just the awesome colorful displays, autumn transforms the flora of Plumas County into a magical leaf peepers’ paradise. 



Click link above for a four page special section about fall color in Plumas County...




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