Park Life Blog

Wildlife Education: Deciduous Trees

Shelby Farms Park has more than 20 lakes and ponds, more than 40 miles of trails, and a variety of plant and tree species that call the Park "home". Today, let's learn about one of those types of trees--deciduous trees--and why they lose their leaves.

Some trees have broad leaves that change colors in the fall or winter and then fall off. These trees are called deciduous trees. Why do deciduous trees lose their leaves in fall and winter? Deciduous trees, by losing their leaves, can conserve water and energy needed by other parts of the tree. The process of losing its leaves also helps a deciduous tree survive the winter. In addition, this process helps the tree get rid of damaged leaves and prepares the tree to produce new leaves in the upcoming spring. 

Chlorophyll is involved in the process of photosynthesis and is also related to why the leaves of deciduous trees change color. Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives leaves their green color. Photosynthesis is the process of using sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen and sugars. These sugars can be stored or used by the tree for energy. In the fall, deciduous trees begin preparing for the winter. The tree stops producing chlorophyll and breaks down the chlorophyll present in the leaves. However, there are additional pigments present in leaves. When the chlorophyll is broken down and the green color is no longer present, these additional pigments of yellow, orange, or red can be seen in the leaves of deciduous tree species.

Thanks to International Paper for helping make education programs at Shelby Farms Park possible.

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