As the last days of September slide away, shorter days and cooler nights work their magic on the foothills of the Green Mountains bordering the October Country Inn. No matter how many years we’ve watched summer morph into fall, this incredible display of color always astounds us. No wonder our guests come from around the world during this time of year more than any other just to see this unique and remarkable display.
Apart from just witnessing nature’s raw beauty as the foliage changes its color, you might wonder how this change comes about. Leaves are nature’s food factories. Plants take water from the ground through their roots, take carbon dioxide from the air and, with sunlight and through a process called photosynthesis, turns it into oxygen which is released back into the air, and glucose which provides the energy for life and growth. Photosynthesis happens in the presence of sunlight and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is also the chemical that gives plants and leaves their green color.
As fall approaches, and the days get shorter and shorter, Vermont’s hardwood forest begins to shut down its food-making factories. The green chlorophyll disappears from the leaves as sunlight diminishes, and as the bright green fades away we begin to see combinations of yellow, orange, red, and purple. These colors show the traces of other chemicals that have been in the leaves all along but that were masked by the volume of green chlorophyll needed to enable photosynthesis to provide enough food for the trees to live and grow.
Of course, knowing a bit about why this remarkable display of color occurs is all very interesting, but it’s a poor substitute for being in its presence. If you’ve got a bucket list, make sure that spending time in Vermont during fall foliage is on it. If you don’t have a bucket list, this is a good reason to start one.