Who knew carotenoids and anthocyanins could be so beautiful?

November 7, 2008 at 7:27 pm Leave a comment

They may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but the two are, in fact, pigment-producing chemicals found in leaves. And they are, in large part, responsible for the beautiful color palette displayed each autumn across the West Shore.

Once the chlorophyll production ceases as night gets longer, the usual leafy greens fade – revealing the two lesser-known chemicals’ rainbow-esque collection of yellow, orange, red, brown and purple hues, usually masked during the growing season.

Nowhere is this seasonal phenomenon more evident than amidst the lush foliage of the Staten Island Greenbelt in Sea View.

Composed of approximately 2,800 acres of land, the Greenbelt has no shortage of unique and uniquely-named locales: LaTourette Park, William T. Davis Wildlife Refuge, Willowbrook Park, Deer Park, Reed’s Basket Willow Swamp, High Rock Park, Egbertville Ravine, Bloodroot Valley and Great Swamp at Farm Colony.

But strolling around the shores of Lake Ohrbach along the yellow, blue, red and orange trails – part of a winding 35-mile network – there is a perfect kaleidoscope of fall colors.

The variegated landscape comes thanks to the varied collection of terrain, trees and plant life.

Along drier and undisturbed expanses, hikers will find red, black and white oak, American Beech and tulip tree with spicebush and arrowwood comprising the underbrush.

On the damper slopes stand red maple, sweetgum, black tupelo and pin and swamp oak.

White ash and American linden work their way in between the two terrains. A smattering of cherries, locusts, cottonwoods, persimmons, birches, chestnuts and hickories can also be discovered by those with a keen eye.

With such a cornucopia comes a rich mix of color; certain shades are characteristic of each type of leaf.

For example, oak leaves turn red, brown and copper; hickories burn a golden bronze; beeches fade to a light tan; and black tupelos transform into a deep crimson. Maples are the most diverse, differing species by species: reds go bright scarlet, sugars orange-red and blacks vivid yellow.

Whatever the scientific explanation, though, the scene is truly breathtaking – and definitely worth a walk.

Material from the Parks Department’s New York Trees field guide and United States Forest Service was used in this article.

By Jamie Lee
Staten Island Advance

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Entry filed under: Get Wet, Staten Island. Tags: , , , , , .

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