We are firmly in the midst of Autumn, with darker days and cooler weather. So get the fire lit, a cup of tea in hand, and enjoy discovering some interesting facts about awesome Autumn!
The autumn colours are spectacular; tones of green, vibrant yellows, reds and oranges in amongst the evergreens. These stunning natural colours are caused by a change in the chemistry within the leaves of deciduous trees. The green chlorophyl which is essential for photosynthesis breaks down, and other chemicals become visible such as carotenes (yellows and oranges) and anthocyanins (reds and purples). The intensity of the colours varies from year to year depending on the previous seasons growing conditions and weather patterns.
This year is reported as being a 'mast year'. A year in which fruiting trees, such as oak, chestnut and beech, produce a bumper crop of seeds. It is thought that trees over-produce in cycles, approximately once every 5-10 years. By doing this they can overwhelm the animals and insects which eat their fruits and seeds - resulting in a higher chance of their seeds germinating, resulting in a larger number of new trees.
Sunsets often appear more spectacular during the autumn and spring. The reason for this is that not only do the sunsets take place earlier in the day, when you might be more likely to be out and about to see them, but the sun is at a lower angle in the sky. This lower angle means that the light passes through more atmosphere before reaching you, scattering the blue wavelengths of light, and making the red and yellow end of the spectrum more visible. Finally, the weather pattern has a huge impact on the sunset, if you have a scattering of clouds at the high and mid levels of the atmosphere, then they can be illuminated by the beautiful shades of colour, creating a stunning visual display as the sun sets.
Autumn hasn't always been what we have known this season as. During the 17th century the phrase 'fall of the leaf' was common, which is where the North American 'fall' comes from - a shortening of our old English phrase! The word Autumn appears to have entered the English language from the French word automne, which didn't become commonly used until the 18th century.
Enjoy getting out during Autumn and watch for the falling leaves. According to folklore if you catch a falling leaf it will lead to good luck, and if you keep hold of that leaf until the buds appear the following spring if will bring you good health and ward off colds! You'll probably have quite a lot of fun trying to catch them too!