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The leaves are changing colour, but why so soon?

DH Vancouver Staff Sep 14, 2015 5:05 pm

Part of you dies each year when the leaves fall from the trees and their branches are bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light.

At least that is what Ernest Hemingway wrote in his seminal novel A Moveable Feast.

Mr. Hemingway would shudder at the looks of Vancouver’s trees this season; dark hues of amber and honey-coloured leaves leaving their perch rather prematurely. The change of colour doesn’t often occur until October, when dunes of raked leaves line boulevards just in time for Halloween, but this September some of Vancouver’s famous timbers are already bare.

The autumn colours began appearing in mid-August, in the height of the region’s summer drought. Only a fraction of the rainfall we’re used to seeing fell, leaving the ground dry as a dust bowl.

The trees, it seems, gasped for as many nutrients as they could muster from their parched roots. University of British Columbia Forestry professor John Innes says that as a leaf ages, trees seek the remaining nourishment from their leaves, draining the colour from them and leaving the red and yellow pigments.

A drought, he says, can launch this process much earlier in the year. In severe cases, green leaves will fall from trees before they change colour.

But you know, there will always be the spring again.

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DH Vancouver Staff
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