We call this season the "fall" because all around us right now (if you live near leaf-dropping trees in a temporal zone), leaves are turning yellow and looking a little dry and crusty. So when a stiff breeze comes along, those leaves seem to "fall" off, thus justifying the name "fall."
Sounds reasonable, no? But the truth is much more interesting.
According to Peter Raven, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and a renowned botanist, the wind doesn't gently pull leaves off trees. Trees are more proactive than that. They throw their leaves off. Instead of calling this season "The Fall," if trees could talk they'd call this the "Get Off Me" season.
Around this time of year in the Northern Hemisphere, as the days grow shorter and colder, those changes trigger a hormone in leaf-dropping trees that sends a chemical message to every leaf that says, in essence, "Time to go! Let's part company!"
Once the message is received, says Raven, little cells appear at the place where the leaf stem meets the branch. They are called "abscission" cells. They have the same root as the word scissors, meaning they are designed, like scissors, to make a cut.
And within a few days or weeks, every leaf on these deciduous trees develops a thin bumpy line of cells that push the leaf, bit by bit, away from the stem. You can't see this without a microscope, but if you looked through one, you'd see those scissors cells lined right up.
That's where the tree gives each leaf a push, leaving it increasingly dangling. "So with that very slender connection, they're sort of ready to be kicked off," says Raven, and then a breeze comes along and finishes the job.
So the truth is, the wind isn't making the leaves fall. It's the tree.
The tree is deeply programmed by eons of evolution to insist that the leaves drop away. Why? Why not let the leaves stick around? Why drop?
Raven explains that leaves are basically the kitchen staff of a tree. During the spring, summer and early fall they make the food that helps the tree grow and thrive and reproduce. When the days get short and cold, food production slows down, giving the tree an option: It can keep the kitchen staff or it can let it go.
If trees kept their leaves permanently they wouldn't have to grow new ones, but leaves are not the brightest of bulbs (sorry!). Every so often, when the winter weather has a break and the days turn warm, Raven says leaves will start photosynthesizing. "They get some water up and they start operating and making food and then it freezes again."
When the cold snap's back on, the leaves will be caught with water in their veins, freeze and die. So instead of a food staff that's resting, the tree is stuck with a food staff that's dead. And when spring comes, the permanent help will be no help. The tree will die.
That's why every fall, deciduous trees in many parts of North America get rid of their leaves and grow new ones in the spring. It's safer that way. So for leaves, falling in the fall isn't optional. The trees are shoving them off.
5 Curb Appeal Tips for Fall
Clean Up the Yard: Keep falling leaves at bay with frequent raking and patch up any brown spots in the grass.
Plant Fall Flowers: As your summer plants start to fade, replace them with vibrant mums or other colorful flowers.
Clean Up the Exterior: Fall is a good time to pressure wash the exterior and clean the windows.
Clear Out All Gutters: Be sure to clear your gutters and downspouts of leaves and other debris, which will protect your home from water damage.
Add Outdoor Lighting: Use decorative lights to illuminate walkways, and install flood lights or lanterns to brighten up entrance areas.
Why didn’t someone warn us that we were in for hurricane-like conditions?! I think it’s safe to say that nobody was quite as prepared as they might have liked to be in order to deal with the amount of water that poured into Hendersonville recently. With how badly the roads flooded, our minds were on the many lawns that could have acted as impromptu swimming pools had the weather been warmer. So you might be wondering, what is the best course of action to take as your lawn begins to drain? How should you handle the newly landed leaves, and what is the appropriate time to wait before you even think about mowing? We’re here to help.
Can you smell that? It’s the smell of fall hitting the Blue Ridge Mountains at long last! The leaves are changing, so be sure to head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway before the winds pick up too much and the trees lose their color. We have talked about not allowing leaves to stay on the ground for too long, especially after a heavy rain, and the best removal is your old friend, the rake.
We’ve talked about different ways to protect your lawn and garden from various pests throughout the summer and fall, but what about those annoyances that aren’t preventable? We’re talking about leaves. Fall in Western North Carolina is a time full of vibrant color that has people traveling from afar to get a glimpse. We all enjoy the beauty of the changing leaves, but what about when they fall? Our recent wind and rain has caused some premature falling of leaves, and we’re here to help.
Page 1 of 2