Leaf senescence and autumn leaf coloration
Thomas, Howard Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, United Kingdom.
- Light is essential for green plants, but can be harmful too
- Recycling is a way of life for green plants
- Yellow pigments are revealed during senescence
- Some senescing leaves turn red
- Autumn colors evolved to defend against a hostile environment
- Links to Primary Literature
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When viewed by astronauts, Earth is the blue planet. When imaged by Earth observation satellites, the planet is green. This reflects the fact that water and chlorophyll are the signatures of life in the solar system. Satellite images show the green color of vegetation ebbing and flowing with the seasons (Fig. 1). A whole season of the year in temperate regions is named for the fall of leaves that follows the seasonal replacement of chlorophyll with the yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and browns of autumn foliage. Such a global-scale biological event must surely have a purpose and a mechanism. We are now learning the how of color change in plants; the why is more elusive, but new insights from genetics and evolutionary biology are providing possible answers.
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