Beautiful Red Fall

If you ever wondered why leaves change color in autumn, you’re not alone. Learn why leaves change color, and how they get that vibrant red hue.


As leaves lose their chlorophyll, other pigments become visible to the human eye, according to Bryan A. Hanson, professor of chemistry and biochemistry at DePauw University who studies plant pigments. Some tree leaves turn mostly brown, indicating that all pigments are gone.

Burgundy and red colors are a different story. Dana A. Dudle is a DePauw professor of biology who researches red pigment in plant flowers, stems and leaves. Dudle said:

The red color is actively made in leaves by bright light and cold. The crisp, cold nights in the fall combine with bright, sunny days to spur production of red in leaves – especially in sugar maple and red maple trees. Burgundy leaves often result from a combination of red pigment and chlorophyll. Autumn seasons with a lot of sunny days and cold nights will have the brightest colors.

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