Bintel Blog

Israeli Academic Discovers the History of Fall Colors

By Nathan Jeffay

  • Print
  • Share Share

In a few weeks time, sidewalks will be lined with autumn leaves. In America, many of the leaves will be red. In Europe, they will mostly be yellow. Until now, the reason for the difference has been a mystery.

But in a theory just published in the Journal New Phytologist, Haifa University academic Simcha Lev-Yadun and Jarmo Holopainen of the University of Kuopio in Finland claim to have looked back 35 million years in world history and found the answer.

They claim that until 35 million years ago, large areas of the globe were covered with evergreen jungles or forests composed of tropical trees. Then, during a series of ice ages and dry spells, many tree species evolved to become deciduous. Many of these them began an evolutionary process of producing red deciduous leaves in order to ward off insects, even though it is more taxing on the tree’s resources than producing yellow leaves. Strong autumn colors were a weapon of trees in the long evolutionary war against insects that suck their amino acids and use them as host to lay their eggs.

In North America and East Asia, where leaves today are red, these species of tree, along with the insects they evolved to ward off survived the ice ages. This is because the way the mountains are arranged meant they offered protection from the cold.

But in Europe, where the lie of the mountains meant they gave less protection, trees which produce red leaves died out. So did the insects they evolved to ward off, hence trees after the ice ages had no need for red leaves and evolved yellow.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: leaves, fall, europe, america

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • “I don’t want to say, ‘Oh oh, I’m not Jewish,’ because when you say that, you sound like someone trying to get into a 1950s country club, “and I love the idea of being Jewish." Are you a fan of Seth Meyers?
  • "If you want my advice: more Palestinians, more checkpoints, just more reality." What do you think?
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.