Foliage Appreciation Post

Pierson courtyard with a magnificent red tree in the fall.

Hailing from San Diego, I find many things about New Haven novel and exciting every time that I come back to campus. The walkability, the dry fall air, the potential to put on more layers than one. All these things are at once lovely and new to me, but in this post I’d like to praise one item on this list in particular. It may be cliché, but only for good reason: the changing leaves.

The gate to Pierson College amidst a tree changing colors to yellow.
A changing tree outside of Pierson College

This is my third year at Yale, and I still cannot get over the fact that trees change colors (mind blowing, I know!). One might expect the charm to wear off, but every morning when I look out my window and see yellow, red, orange, purple, and burgundy leaves hanging from the trees my heart swells three sizes too big.

A tree turning yellow outside of Entryway G in the Pierson Courtyard.

In one of the science courses I’ve experimented with at Yale, the professor discussed the mechanism behind this: how deciduous trees change color and drop their leaves to protect themselves against water damage in the wetter seasons. The leaves, which contain water, carbon, and nitrogen, lose their green color as chlorophyll within the leaves breaks down and frees up these nutrients to be sent to the trunk and roots. While the chlorophyll is disassembled for parts and the leaf loses its green hue, other pigments within the leaf are now exposed, able to gloriously debut themselves. Xanthophyll for yellow, carotene for orange, and anthocyanin for purple and red — these colors were finally demystified to me.

One leaf, so many colors…

This class also discusses some of our most pressing scientific issues today, from emerging diseases to climate change and its repercussions. I enjoy the balance between these hefty topics that are grounded in current discourse and more micro-subjects like why a leaf next door might change from chartreuse to amber.

Amber leaves against the red bricks of Pierson College during a sunny evening.

In my own residential college, Pierson (Go Knights!), there are plenty of trees to observe this natural process with. Throughout this fall semester, I have been trying to snap more pics of the colorful leaves around me in order to remember to fully appreciate them. Once snow starts to fall, I won’t get to ogle at their magnificence any longer. Luckily for me, though, as a San Diegan, the only thing more exhilarating than seeing leaves change color is watching snow fall from the sky. I’ll need to take another science credit to get the scoop on that, but you can definitely expect a blog post from me come February extolling the mystery to me that is frozen rain!?

Bright, BRIGHT red leaves of a small tree by my dorm.

A tree with no leaves and a tree with the most radiant red leaves bellow it.
You rarely see a tree like this in SD!