Autumn has set in and days are shorter. As the trees get ready for the winter, in some parts of the world the landscape have become a dazzling wonderland of yellows, pinks, reds and oranges.Shorter days tell plants that it is time to change, because during winter there is not enough light or water for photosynthesis and they must survive with the food they stored during the summer.
This applies to deciduous plants, notour Mediterranean evergreens that look green all year round. Deciduous means “falling off at maturity”. Plants’ food production mechanisms shut down, causing the green chlorophyll to disappear from their leaves and colours appear, that were there anyway, but were covered up by that green chlorophyll.
In Canada and the United States, autumn leaf watching is known as ‘leaf peeping’ and makes a major contribution to economic activity. Other countries such as Switzerland, Germany and Japan, also run attractive advertising campaigns to encourage tourists to visit and enjoy their beautiful autumn landscapes. In the far north, obviously, autumn leaf colour occurs sooner. For example in Finland, it only lasts for two weeks, so you had best go in late September, whereas in parts of Japan the show goes on until early November. You had better plan ahead.
Here in our area we have a ‘tree nuisance’. The pine trees in our area our protected and landowners even daring to chop off a branch risk attracting the wrath of SEPRONA, the environmental arm of the Guardia Civil. As well as serving as breeding grounds for the horrible ‘procesionario’ caterpillar, which causes blindness in animals, with our extreme weather conditions, all we need is a good rain or wind storm and the branches fall, crushing cars and roofs and blocking roads. A ‘senior’of mine lives in a house that is surrounded by pines which constantly drop needles. In pine forests, pine needle mulch creates a carpet that protects soil from erosion and prevents the evaporation of moisture, but on her pressed concrete driveway they are just plain slippery and she has already broken her leg and her wrist on two separate occasions.A nightmare!
Leaves are of course an important source of nourishment for our soil. All the leaves in our garden and other organic waste go in to compost bins where they rot down into compost and are spread on the garden next spring. I’ll leave that hamstring threatening activity to my husband, and get back to planning next autumn’s leaf peeping holiday in Japan!