Autumn Sugar Maple Leaves

One of Nova Scotia’s crowning glories is the province’s brilliant autumn leaf colours.  On a mild day last month, I soaked up that glory in full measure while walking rural roads near my home, camera in hand. However, photographing leaves on the tree is a tricky business. The leaves overlap. A breeze stirs them. Their faces angle away. They flip their undersides at me. I stood mesmerized by their jumbled collective beauty, but was unable to truly appreciate the merit of individual leaves.

Just for fun, I plucked a sugar maple leaf from a twig and dropped in on the pavement at my feet. Instantly, I was captivated by red and orange on grey, by artistic points and curves against pebbled asphalt. There at the roadside, I had discovered a most exquisite piece of art, free for the taking.

Sugar Maple Leaf on Asphalt

Sugar Maple Leaf on Asphalt

I plucked more leaves – of red maples, this time – and arranged them on the pavement, exulting in their shades of red and orange, green, yellow and burgundy. Cars drove by. I didn’t care.

Autumn Road Art

I thought about how the green pigment chorophyll, necessary for photosynthesis, masks other pigments in the leaves during the growing season. Yet with colder autumn temperatures, that dominant green pigment is broken down, revealing the yellow xanthophyll, orange beta-carotene, and red anthocyanin pigments that had been in the leaves all along, hidden. How many of us wear workaday masks that hide stunning beauty within us? Oh, to go out like a maple leaf…

Red Maple Leaves in Autumn

Anthocyanin, Beta-carotene and Xanthophyll Pigments Revealed

Like Flames Fallen to the Road

The Unmasking of Hidden Pigments

I thought about how the green pigment chorophyll, necessary for photosynthesis, masks other pigments in the leaves during the growing season. Yet with colder autumn temperatures, that dominant green pigment is broken down, revealing the yellow xanthophyll, orange beta-carotene, and red anthocyanin pigments that had been in the leaves all along, hidden. How many of us wear workaday masks that hide stunning beauty within us? Oh, to go out like a maple leaf…

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