|Autumn in Salcey Forest by Marlene Snee|
In his wonderfully funny book Notes from a Big Country, Bill Bryson muses about this wonderful annual display of vivid colour. "What is all the more remarkable about this is that no one knows quite why it happens. In Autumn ... trees prepare for their long winter's slumber by ceasing to manufacture chlorophyll, the chemical that makes their leaves green. The absence of chlorophyll allows other pigments, called carotenoids, which have been present in the leaves all along, to show off a bit. The carotenoids are what account for the yellow and gold of birches, beeches and some oaks, among others. Now here is where it gets interesting. To allow these golden colours to thrive, the trees must continue to feed the leaves even though the leaves are not actually doing anything useful except hanging there looking pretty. Just at a time when a tree ought to be storing up all its energy for use the following spring, it is instead expending a great deal of effort feeding a pigment that brings joy to the hearts of simple folk like me but doesn't do anything for the tree."
It is a mystery, but a beautiful one, and I just wanted to record my thanks to God for it.