At this time of year I always eagerly await to see the changing colour on the trees. Some people travel long distances to see the trees to the north of us but there are some spectacular views close to home. Everywhere I turn at Westfield there is another picture-perfect moment.
Where does that colour come from? During the spring and summer the leaves on a tree serve as factories where most of the foods necessary for the tree’s growth are manufactured. This food-making process takes place in the leaf in numerous cells containing chlorophyll, which gives the leaf its green color. This extraordinary chemical absorbs from sunlight the energy that is used in transforming carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates, such as sugars and starch.
Along with the green pigment are yellow to orange pigments, carotenes and xanthophyll pigments which, for example, give the orange colour to a carrot. Most of the year these colors are masked by great amounts of green coloring.
In the fall, as the length of daylight changes and the temperature changes, the leaves stop their food-making process. The chlorophyll breaks down, the green colour disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.
At the same time other chemical changes may occur, which form additional colors through the development of red anthocyanin pigments. Some mixtures give reddish and purplish fall colours to trees such as dogwoods and sumacs, while others give the sugar maple its brilliant orange.
Some years the colours are brighter than others. In 2020 the reds were breathtaking at Westfield. This year the lighter yellows and oranges are in the majority. Ever wonder why that is? The quantity and quality of the colour vary depending on weather, sunlight and soil moisture. For example, extreme weather and an increase in precipitation of all forms means high cloud cover which directly links to low light levels and a low photosynthesis rate. A reduction in photosynthesis production lowers a tree’s sugar reserves and sugars are needed to stimulate the synthesis of anthocyanins giving leaves their colour. Westfield saw lots of rain this year.
Come enjoy the colour before its all gone. Westfield is open as a Conservation Area 7 days a week for hikes and walks. On Sunday afternoons until the end of October there will be some extra experiences available from 12:00 to 4:00 p.m. The General Store and Gift Shop are open as well as two other historical buildings. Admission everyday is $15.50 for a car load.