seeing green

Spring time is so rejuvenating, with its longer daylight hours and the return of color to the landscape.  But it seems the color I (and others) seek out, in particular, in the spring landscape is green.

green hills-spring in California

Even in sunny California where there is some color all year, we revel in the fresh green that covers the hills after the winter rains. The grandkids love to run in the hills (photo from my daughter’s blog).

Why green?  Is it just because the landscape has been monotonic gray and brown for so long, or is there something special about the color green? Or is there something special about the particular hue of that green color in the spring landscape?

forest stream-watercress

The bright green color of the watercress in this forest stream was vibrant and alluring, more so to my eye than the yellow-green of the moss on the trees.

moss on a rotten log

Nice, but not mesmerizing, like the bluer green color of new grass, new leaves, or new watercress.

So what is it about green that is so satisfying in the spring?  Research on the physiological response to color does show that human mood is highly impacted by color in predictable ways.  Bright colors stimulate (high saturation or high intensity of light), dull light or lack of saturation makes us drowsy. Color shades toward the blue end of the spectrum are calming, while shades toward the red end are alarming.  But what about green?


Spring-fed watercress is a particularly attractive shade of green.

In a well-controlled study of the physiological response to color in 250 University of California students, two researchers* found that blue, blue-green, and green evoked the highest pleasure responses, while blue-green, green, and yellow-green stimulated the greatest arousal responses — far higher than yellow, orange, red, or red-purple.  Based on these results, it is no surprise then, that we respond to spring green-ness the way we do.  And I, for one, am ready for lots more of it.

*P. Valdez and A. Mehrabian.  1994.  Effect of color on emotions.  Journal of Experimental Psychology.  123: 394-409

4 thoughts on “seeing green

  1. We just returned from Seattle where a lovely Spring is well underway and trees, grass and shrubs are all a vivid green. Minnesota seemed really brown and boring when we got back!

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