En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
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

Correct spelling of Passiflora caerulea
August 07, 2007 - What is correct, passiflora coerulea or caerulea ?
view the full question and answer

Mechanism for Cenizo bush blooming before rain
October 04, 2006 - Why does cenizo (aka barometer bush) bloom before it rains?
view the full question and answer

Native North American bulbs
August 19, 2011 - I saw your list of 4 lilies native to the Northeastern United States, which was very helpful. What other bulbs are native to North America? Although I garden in Connecticut, I am interested in learn...
view the full question and answer

What is a Demaree Rose?
August 14, 2013 - Have been told the Apache Plume is the Wild Rose after which the Wild Rose Pass north of Ft. Davis was named. However, other research indicates it was the Demaree Rose. What is true and are there ...
view the full question and answer

Have invasive plants no useful purpose from Anchorage AK
September 03, 2011 - Does the definition of invasive plants include that the plant has no useful purpose? Thanks.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center