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The breakdown of chlorophyll

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Written by   33
3 months ago

I went to a nearby park full of beautiful old oaks. They are not native to my country, so seeing them is quite rare. I love their huge thick trunks and the beautiful shape of their leaves. In autumn, they put on a pretty yellow coat.

Plants rely on photosynthesis to produce the much-needed carbohydrates to keep themselves alive. Chlorophyll is the main chemical that reacts with light and binds CO2 and water into glucose.

As the weather cools and sunlight level drops, chlorophyll is being broken down. Other molecules such as xanthophyll, carotene and anthocyanins become responsible for the colouration. They exist throughout the year, but chlorophyll dominates over them.

Xanthophyll is yellow. Carotene, as the name suggests, gives carrots their orange colour, but also paints autumn leaves in beautiful shades. Anthocyanin is typically responsible for the blue colour of flowers and berries. However, it can also cause the intense reds we see in, e.g., maples.

On the ground there were lots of fallen leaves, covered in water droplets from the morning rain.

Further on during my walk, I saw beautiful examples of xanthophyll-rich leaves on the asp trees. The shadows must have been falling in an interesting way since that leaf still has a green stripe.

There were some asp leaves that were bright red.

And several were multicolourred. Those were my favourites. It's a pity that drying them won't preserve the pigments.

An additional finding was this cute mushroom that was well hidden under the leaves. Thankfully nobody has stepped on it, it was right in the middle of the path.

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Written by   33
3 months ago
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