on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

In praise of anthocyanin. And carotenoids too…

Guy Washburn

Guy Washburn

The camera is both the license and instrument of my exploration of worlds natural and internal.


Each year here in New England a marvellous transformation takes place. As days shorten and the nights get colder, the green chlorophyll that lets leaves provide nutrients to the trees all summer gets put away for one last flourish. In some species, the seasonal change induces a flush of sugar production, which is restricted by the cold nights from reaching the trunk of the trees. But in these trees, the pigment anthocyanin allows the trees to access the produced sugar by minimizing oxidation before the leaves fall. The reds of maple, dogwood and oaks are due to the presence and protection of anthocyanin.

But the yellows, oranges and browns of birches, poplars and hickories come from another process. The carotenoid pigments that colour these trees’ leaves are always present in tandem with chlorophyll. The shorter days of fall trigger a reduction of chlorophyll production, causing it to dwindle until only the bright colours of carotenoids remain.

So those of us who love the colours of fall should take a few moments to give anthocyanin and carotenoids their due…

Walking softly and carrying a large tripod, I explore the woods and waters of my native New England and beyond to experience and share the amazement of their subtle beauty.

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