The Changing Colors of the Season – Fall Leaves

Nature provides us with magnificent scenery. As we change seasons, many of us look forward to the changing colors of the season seen in the fall leaves. And if my science education memories are correct, a warm and wet spring usually offers magnificent autumn colors. In addition, a summer that mirrors spring typically helps to increase the colorful scenery. So there might be a positive outcome from the wet spring and summer we are leaving behind. In Atlanta leaves change about the end of October, with optimal leaf color viewing usually the first week in November. Since we are in a slightly higher elevation than Atlanta, we might see the changing colors sooner.

What causes the fall leaves to change color?

While I am anxiously awaiting the cool days of late fall and early winter, I also look forward to driving through the mountains taking in the magnificent colors of fall. Warm autumn days and mild nights can offer spectacular red colors.

Trees have the possibility of 3 pigments: chlorophyll, carotenoid and anthocyanin. As our days become shorter, trees have less sunlight. And they respond by producing less and less chlorophyll, which keeps our leaves green in the summer. As trees stop producing chlorophyll, carotenoid becomes the dominant pigment and creates the yellow, gold and orange colors enabling the leaves to become a bright rainbow of glowing yellows, sparkling oranges and warm browns. Trees that make anthocyanin provide us with those spectacular reds I talked about earlier.

Georgia’s Spectrum of Fall Leaves

Here’s a sampling of colors you might see in fall leaves from different trees around the area.



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  • Black Cherry
  • Black Gum
  • Buckeye
  • Persimmon
  • Red Maple
  • Scarlet Oak
  • Sweet Birch
  • Umbrella Magnolia
  • White Ash
  • White Oak
  • Yellow Poplar



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  • American Beech
  • Black Walnut
  • Hickories
  • White Basswood





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  • American Elm
  • Black Oak
  • Chestnut Oak



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  • Sassafras



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  • Scarlet Oak
  • Sumac
  • Sweet Gum



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  • Southern Red Oak






And if you already know what trees you have, here are some of the colors you might see:


Tree Colors
Birch bright yellow
Black Maple glowing yellow
Dogwood purple, red
Hickory golden bronze
Oak brown, red, russet
Poplar golden yellow
Red Maple bright scarlet
Sugar Maple orange, red