The changing of the colors of the leaves in fall can look quite magical, but there is no magic to it. It all comes down to the chemical compounds that create those leaf colors.
At this point in the year, we have passed the Equilux, where we had equal parts daylight and nighttime. We are now seeing more and more dark hours heading through the fall months. As that daylight continues to fade, so does the Chlorophyll in the leaves. That’s the chemical compound that gives leaves their green color.
As the Chlorophyll breaks down, other chemical compounds in the leaves are more visible, giving us those flashy fall pigments.
The compound Xanthophyll gives us yellow colors, Carotene gives us orange, and Anthocyanin red.
It does take us a while to see the brilliant colors of fall here in the Lowcountry. Our fall foliage usually peaks in late October, early November because we have such a warm climate.
The ideal formula for getting good fall colors is sunny, warm days with cool but not freezing nights. Drought conditions can also limit how much of a punch those colors pack.