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    Why Leaves Change Color

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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. However, what happens in the fall when leaves change colors? Why are there so many different colors? Moreover, why are the colors more intense some years?

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    Solution Preview

    Photosynthetic pigments come in a variety of colors including green, orange, and yellow. These pigments, called xanthophylls (yellow) and carotenoids (orange), are present in leaves all of the time, but in small quantities. There colors are overwhelmed and masked by the green chlorophyll that is present throughout most of the summer. As the daylight hours wane, plants stop producing chlorophyll and because the green chlorophyll is easily broken down, it disappears ...

    Solution Summary

    This solution looks at the process that causes leaves to change color and how this process is affected by temperature, sunlight, and nutrition.