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    What happens in the fall when leaves change colors?

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    Plants absorb light energy using special molecules called photosynthetic pigments (predominantly chlorophylls). These pigments absorb most of the visible light except for wavelengths in the green part of the spectrum. Consequently, plants appear green. But what happens in the fall when leaves change colors? Why are there so many different colors? And why are the colors more intense some years?

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    In the fall, the leaves change colors because the chlorophyll molecules begin to degrade. As the cells in the leaves shut down and begin to die, the molecules they contain begin to fall apart. As the amount of chlorophyll in the cells decreases, the amount of reflected green light diminishes. As a result, the leaves start to change color away from green.

    But, why do they change colors to yellow, orange, and red? The answer lies in the fact that leaves have different kinds of pigments in them besides just chlorophyll. In fact, they have all kinds of ...