En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - May 12, 2005

From: Philadelphia, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: General Botany
Title: Copper beech
Answered by: Damon Waitt

QUESTION:

Hi, I work for a youth camp in southeastern Pennsylvania. The property for the camp was purchased from a farmer in 1958. The farmer was a collecter of unusual trees and one of the trees on our property is a Copper Beech. Over the past 10 years, I have noticed that throughout the summer, the color of the leaves change from day to day. They are normally a purple color, but then, some days, they are more green, or at least have a hint of green. Then, they will go back to all purple. I have tried (in a very unscientic way) to watch the tree and see if there were patterns like weather or humidity that would consistently change the color of the leaves, but so far, I haven't come up with anything. Do you know anything about this, or have any ideas? I would love some help on this question. I joke around with the others here at camp about how the weather is going to be that day at camp due to the color of the leaves, and they all think I am crazy. Got any ideas...I sure would like to prove them wrong! Looking forward to hearing back from you.

ANSWER:

This is a complicated question and deserves a complicated answer. Leaves appear green because the green pigment chlorophyll absorbs red and blue light from sunlight. Consequently, the light reflected by leaves is diminished in red and blue and appears green. chlorophyll is not a very stable compound and to maintain the amount of chlorophyll in their leaves, plants must continuously synthesize it. The synthesis of chlorophyll in plants requires sunlight and warm temperatures. Therefore, during summer chlorophyll is continuously broken down and regenerated in the leaves of trees. In some trees, as the concentration of sugar in the leaf increases, the sugar reacts to form anthocyanins. These pigments cause leaves to turn red. The range and intensity of the color change is greatly influenced by the weather. Low temperatures destroy chlorophyll, and if they stay above freezing, promote the formation of anthocyanins. Bright sunshine also destroys chlorophyll and enhances anthocyanin production. Dry weather, by increasing sugar concentration in sap, also increases the amount of anthocyanin. So the brightest colors are produced when dry, sunny days are followed by cool, dry nights.

 

More General Botany Questions

USDA Hardiness Zone of Rancho Bernardo, CA
October 01, 2009 - What plant zone is Poway, Rancho Bernardo CA?
view the full question and answer

Albinism in plants.
May 16, 2010 - Greetings, I was wondering what you know of albinism in plants? I know I've found a few articles about it online. I discovered my only albino plant last summer. It was an albino dogbane plant grow...
view the full question and answer

Smog-eating plants from Ft. Worth TX
September 30, 2012 - Looking for a list (40 >) of Native Texas Plants for Fort Worth Urban (Condo) that are Drought tolerant or (drip irr) and Fragrant and long blooming and eat up the city smog. Fort Worth is in a non-at...
view the full question and answer

How many plant species are in Maryland
October 31, 2008 - About how many plant species are there in Maryland?
view the full question and answer

Where do snake herb and skeleton-leaf goldeneye get their names?
October 05, 2014 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Where does snake herb, and skeleton leaf goldeneye get their names from? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center