Feast of green

Spring is in full swing here (finally!), and at last we are surrounded by vibrant shades of green — everywhere.

new fern

new needles

new elm leaves

Some new leaves are a distinct color of green that is a product of uneven distribution of chlorophyll in the plant cells.  You can sort of see that in the leaves above.  Other new leaves start out reddish (due to the presence of anthocyanin pigments), and turn green as they rev up their chlorophyll manufacture.

new rose leaves

Why red leaves in the spring?

It seems that many people have asked (and answered) this question, and have found a positive benefit of deploying the red (anthocyanin) pigment first, delaying chlorophyll synthesis until the leaf is fully mature.  Among the suggested hypotheses:  increased anti-fungal properties, increased UV protection (sunscreen), reduced detection of red leaves by herbivores, and/or increased predation of herbivorous insects on red leaves by predators.

With all these potential benefits, you have to wonder why all leaves aren’t red in the spring.

8 thoughts on “Feast of green

  1. I love the sheer artistry of the first shot, Sue, above and beyond its teaching value in your posting. You make a strong case for staying red, reminding me of the signature line from one of the songs sung by Kermit the Frog, “It’s not easy being green.”

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