Why are the trees brighter than I remember?

Written by Urban Ecology Center
    Monday, 02 November 2020
Why are the trees brighter than I remember?

Have you noticed that the leaves have changed into brighter colors then you remember them being in the past? If you haven’t, go take a walk outside and see what you think about the leaf color. The reason that some years the colors of leaves seem brighter than others is because of the temperature and cloud cover. For the leaves to get bright, they need several warm sunny days followed by nights where it does not freeze. If this happens continually then it will be a good year for reds and bright leaves.

Along with the temperature, the wind also makes a difference. If it gets cold and cloudy and then is really windy, the leaves will fall off the trees faster. If the weather is ideal, sunny warm days, nights that stay above freezing, and less windy, the leaves will stay on the trees longer, allowing us to see the beautiful colors longer.

Tree1What makes the leaves change color? It starts with the days getting shorter, which means less sunlight. This signals the leaves to stop making chlorophyll, which is the pigment that makes plants and leaves green. It allows plants to make food so they can grow using water, air, and light from the sun. All leaves have chlorophyll in them, but sometimes not all of the leaf has chlorophyll in it. Some leaves have different colored stripes and spots. These areas do not have chlorophyll in them and can not make food.

The best places to see the fall leaves in Wisconsin:

  • Lapham Peak: 45- foot observation tower is the highest point in Waukesha County and provides breathtaking 360-degree views.
  • Devil’s Lake State Park: Wisconsin’s Largest State Park, it offers amazing views from the 500-foot Quartzite bluffs overlooking a 360-acre lake.
  • The Geneva Lake Shore Path: a paved path that gives views to the lake and surrounding fall colors.
  • Holy Hill: an architecturally beautiful church that was built atop a glacial hill - when you climb to the top you can see the fall colors for miles and miles

The best places to see the fall leaves in MilwaukeeTree3

  • Riverside Park: includes a 15-acre wooded land on the East bank of the Milwaukee River and is where the Urban Ecology Center is located!
  • Whitnall Park: lots of trails through this wooded 230-acre Milwaukee County Park, including the Woodland Trail Loop - a fall favorite! (There is also a waterfall at the northern edge of the parks pond.park.)
  • Oak Leaf Trail: named after the oaks and other hardwoods framing much of the paved path - a perfect trail for a fall bike ride.
  • Grant Park: check out the 2-mile Seven Bridges Trail where you can see lots of different kinds of trees, beach views, and autumn colored bluffs

Wisconsin Fall Color Report and viewing opportunities. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2020, from https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/education/fallcolors

Best Views in WI for the Fall Colors: Travel Wisconsin. (n.d.). Retrieved October 21, 2020, from https://www.travelwisconsin.com/article/fall/the-best-views-in-wisconsin-for-the-fall-colors


Blog post and photos by community programs intern Payton Biwer. Payton is a senior this year at Carroll University and an is doing an internship through the Urban Ecology Center. She is studying Healthcare Administration and has a minor in Leadership and Management. She is from Jefferson, Wisconsin and has always loved being outside and enjoying nature. Last spring, she got the opportunity to travel to Bali, Indonesia and learn about Sustainability and the coral reef there. She cannot wait to go back!


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