Every autumn a change washes over the
area. The greens of summer begin to dwindle and are replaced
by brilliant oranges and reds and yellows. It is as if some
mysterious painter, tired of summer's green, uses his entire
palette to create a world of colors.
Deciduous trees do this leafy color change act every year just
before the leaves fall to decorate our lawns and cover up that
fading green too. Interestingly, the word "deciduous"
comes from a Latin root meaning "to fall off.”
The Algonquin Native Americans of this area had a legend which
explained just why the leaves changes color. The legend tells
of a mighty bear which roamed the countryside wreaking havoc
among the Native Villages. The bear obviously had an attitude.
He would charge into their village, eat all their food, destroy
their homes, chase away their animals and like as not munch
on a few women and children while he was at it.
Not surprisingly, the natives decided they had to do something
about the bear. They had a meeting and selected the bravest
hunters from each village to put an end to the bear. The hunters
set out with their dogs and soon found the bear.
Now the bear was no fool, and when he saw the entourage sent
after him, he decided on a change of residence, quickly. The
bear began to run and the hunters and their dogs gave chase.
On and on the bear ran and the hunters followed. Sometimes they
would gain a little and then they would shoot some arrows. On
one of these occasions an arrow nicked the bear. It was not
a very big injury, but the bear howled with rage and fear and
ran so fast he went up into the sky. The hunters, so bent on
their pursuit, ran up into the sky after the bear.
The bear is represented by the 4 stars in the bowl of the Big
Dipper. The three stars in the handle of the dipper represent
the hunters chasing the bear. And the dimmer stars around the
three hunters are their dogs. The hunters and bear go round
and round in the north sky. But every fall, the Big Dipper comes
low to the horizon. It is then, according to the legend, that
the bear's wound leaks a few drops of blood, and this blood
changes the colors of the leaves on the trees. It is a fanciful
story, and if you look in the north sky you will indeed see
that at this time of year the Big Dipper is almost touching
Those beautiful orange and yellow colors we look forward to
in fall have been in tree leaves since last spring. Leaves contain
carotenoids - the substance that makes carrots orange -- and
xanthophylls, which make egg yolks yellow. In spring or summer,
these colors are masked by the green pigment chlorophyll --
needed for photosynthesis -- the chemical reaction that works
with water, air and sunlight to make food for a tree.
Photosynthesis takes place in the leaves of trees. And the leaves
also let excess moisture evaporate from the tree. But during
the winter, when the ground is frozen, a tree can't absorb water
through its roots. If it kept losing moisture through its leaves,
the tree would die of thirst.
So the leaves have to go. When the tree senses the shorter days,
less intense sun, and cooler temperatures of autumn, it begins
to form a layer of new cells at the place where leaves attach
to their stems. These cell layers ultimately completely plug
up the tubes that carry water and minerals to the leaves. No
water -- no photosynthesis -- so the green pigment chlorophyll
in the leaf is no longer needed. When it goes, you see the other
colors that were hidden in the leaves all along.
romantic, I know, but impressive nonetheless…
Source Unknown ~~