Smooth Sumac may be invasive in abandoned old fields and prairies in the eastern part of the U.S., but it contributes some of the prettiest colors to the fall vegetation.
X marks the spot for a little highlight of color in the midst of a sea of green leaves.
The reason I call sumac a rainbow forest (or at least a half-rainbow): leaf colors range from green through the yellow-orange-red-crimson part of the color spectrum as they senesce before dropping off the plant.
Chlorophyll pigments that make the leaf look green decrease in the fall, exposing the xanthophyll (yellow) and carotenoids (orange) pigments that are part of the secondary light harvesting complexes.
The deep red color of some leaves means they contain anthocyanin compounds, which are synthesized in some newly emerging leaves as well as in some senescing leaves. Anthocyanins act as a sort of a sunscreen to protect leaves from damage on cooler days with bright sunshine.
Just can’t get enough of that brilliant red…