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The Science of Autumn Colors

Fothergilla leaves make the transition from green to red in the National Herb Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum. (Photo credit U.S. National Arboretum)

Fothergilla leaves make the transition from green to red in the National Herb Garden at the U.S. National Arboretum. (Photo credit U.S. National Arboretum)

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Like a lot of people, I remember being taught when I was young that the brilliant autumn foliage of deciduous trees was caused by the cold temperatures of autumn frosts.  I believed this until I became a horticulturist, studying the intricate system that plants use to prepare for winter’s harsh weather.  Where I work, at the U.S. National Arboretum, we grow about 10,000 different kinds of trees and shrubs and have an overwhelming variety of fall color right now. Read more »