November 6, 2009

My Vote Goes To Jack Frost!

Have you heard the story about Jack Frost and how he is responsible for the gorgeous changing of leaves in the fall?  He  pinches the leaves with his icy fingers and some leaves  turn red. Then he goes from tree to tree with his paintbrush and adds yellow and gold colors. Of course, this only happens on frosty nights.

But if you don't like that story, here's another one.  The Native Americans told a legend to explain why leaves change color in the fall.  They respected the bear.  One day celestial hunters killed the Great Bear.  The Bear's blood rained on the forests, coloring some of the leaves red.  And then when the hunters were cooking and the fat splashed out of the cooking kettle, the other leaves turned yellow.

Or maybe you will like the legend told by the Cherokee Native Americans.  When only plants and animals were on earth, the Great Spirit told the plants and animals that if they could stay awake for seven days and nights, they would receive great power. But only a few could do that.   They were granted eternal color and power of night.  Thus, pine and cedar trees were allowed to stay green and live all year long.  But the other trees had to get rid of their leaves and sleep during the winter.

For a long time, I didn't know how the leaves changed colors in the fall.  Maybe I was absent from school the day the teacher taught the scientific facts about leaves changing color.  Or, maybe I  just wasn't listening! 

What really happens is that the colors in the leaves are always there.  It's just that the chlorophyll  (gives leaves their green color) covers the reds and yellows.  But then shorter days and cooler temperatures tell the plant to prepare for winter. The amount of chlorophyll fades, and the colored pigments in the leaves show through.

Yellow pigments are in hickory, birch, ash, poplar, and sycamore trees.  Red pigments are in maples, sumac, and oaks.

When the days are shorter and colder, I want to go home from work and stay at home! I don't want to go out again.  Just let me curl up with something hot to drink.

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