September 23, 2014

Autumn Leaf Masquerade Ball



Almost every time my husband and I travel to New England in the autumn I’m asked Are you going to leaf peep?

I ask them back Why would I go to New England to leaf peep? I live in the Ligonier Valley, in Pennsylvania, at the northern end of the Appalachian mountains, which is one of the best leaf-peeping regions in the country.

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(Photo taken in Boston in autumn, 2013)

This is not to say that, when traveling home from New England, I don’t enjoy following the north-to-south progression of autumn’s brilliant foliage. I can simulate the leaf-change progression locally by traveling into the Ligonier Valley from atop Laurel Mountain, close to 3,000 foot elevation. Truly, I agree with George Eliot who wrote Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns, and Albert Camu, who wrote Autumn is a second spring when every leaf’s a flower.

Accordingly, autumn is the time at the green-theme Autumn Leaf Masquerade Ball, when deciduous tree leaves gradually remove their masks and show their true colors. Their mask is created by a green pigment, chlorophyll—a biomolecule essential for converting sunlight into energy during a process known as photosynthesis. Once this green mask is shed the true colors that have remained hidden, yellow and orange (called carotenoids), amaze all whose eyes view them.

Autumn in the hills of Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania

Autumn in the hills of Ligonier Valley, Pennsylvania

Red and purple pigments (anthocyanins) are also buried under the green mask. These colors are revealed only when the sugar in leaves breaks down in late summer. The more prevalent the anthocyanins the more fiery the leaves will be…think red maples, red oaks, dogwood and sweet gum trees.


As autumn leaves unmask

A population of thousands

Caps their host trees in (more…)

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