Friday photo – Winter leaves

Deep red palmate leaves on an Acer tree, up close. The leaves are deep red with veins traced in fine yellow lines where sunlight passes through them, black and burgundy where shaded, brownish where the sun reflects from them. Blue sky behind.

The deep red leaves of the Acer tree across the road during leaf fall, which happens in winter in this city and not autumn. I don’t know its variety, but there are very few that turn full colour at leaf fall here because our winters are so mild. The colour comes from the tree reabsorbing chlorophyll to save resources, and most deciduous trees planted here don’t get the temperature signal that triggers the chlorophyll-sucking before the leaves fall (and they don’t even get the signal for leaf-fall until almost midwinter!). Even most of this tree doesn’t turn red – the leaves fall in shades of brown and burgundy, and the deepest red is only found on one low branch which gets significantly less sun than the rest of the tree. This tree is one of my great resources – I use its leaves as much-needed organic matter in my soil reconstruction. Left on the street they’d go straight into our local river, dumping excess nitrogen and nutrients in and suffocating the water by sucking out oxygen. I sweep the leaves from the street daily this time of year as my contribution to resource recovery, turning an environmental problem into an environmental solution.

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