November 17, 2020
Ben here with today's edition of #BenInNature! Here's a picture of a leaf from the persimmon tree I planted in my backyard this past spring. We all know that the leaves of most deciduous trees change color in the fall (we're especially aware of it when we're trying to get somewhere and a leaf peeper in the car in front of us is running about 20 miles per hour). But WHY do leaves change color?
Trees get energy by producing the green pigment chlorophyll, which absorbs energy from sunlight and uses it to convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates. However, chlorophyll isn't the only pigment in tree leaves; many tree leaves also contain xanthophylls, which are yellow pigments; carotenoids, which are orange pigments; and/or anthocyanins, which are red pigments. These pigments are in the leaves all year long, but most of the time, they're masked by the green chlorophyll.
Trees produce lots of green chlorophyll in the spring and summer because there's plenty of warmth and sunlight. However, as the days get shorter and the weather gets cooler, it sends a signal to trees that it's time to stop producing food and pack things up for the winter. Once the tree stops producing chlorophyll, the only remaining pigments are the yellows, oranges, and reds, which become more and more prominent as the remaining chlorophyll begins to break down.
Now that you know, please enjoy the lovely anthocyanins in this persimmon leaf!
Social distancing can be difficult, but it presents a great opportunity to become reacquainted with nature. In this series of posts, Administrator of Science Ben Williams ventures outdoors to record a snapshot of the unique sights that can be found in the natural world. New updates are posted Monday - Friday, with previous posts highlighted on the weekends.
NEW: TRIVIA CHALLENGE
You've seen the posts. You've learned the facts. Now, it's time to prove you are a #BenInNature Mega Fan! The museum's education team has developed the #BenInNature Trivia Challenge to identify the most devoted fans out there! Everyone who successfully answers each trivia question correctly will be congratulated by having your own nature selfie posted to the museum's #BenInNature Mega Fan Photo Album on the official VMNH Facebook page! Learn more and download the trivia challenge today by visiting www.vmnh.net/research-collecti.../beninnature-trivia-challenge.
NATURE PHOTO IDENTIFICATIONS
If you discover something in nature that you would like help identifying, be sure to message us right here on Facebook with a picture (please include location and date of picture) and we'll have our experts help you identify it!