The Season of Death

My neighbor's tree dies a slow, agonizing, horrible death: Well, the leaves do, anyway.  Photo by Gene
My neighbor's tree dies a slow, agonizing, horrible death: Well, the leaves do, anyway. Photo by Gene

Oh, sure. Autumn looks pretty, with its big flashy colors and brilliant blue skies. But that’s just a mask it wears to disguise its true, evil intentions. Everything good in the world is dying, all around us, and there’s nothing we can do about it. In fall the nights grow longer, the days colder. Beaches close. Bicycles get packed away for the season. The two most perfect inventions of the mind of man – daylight saving time and baseball – both come to a close. It is the end of life as we have known it. And all we have to look forward to are endless months of icicle winds, lowering skies, and – worst of all – football.

The fiery colors of Autumn are the flames of a funeral pyre, a sign of death and decay. According to Susan Carpenter, native plant gardener at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, leaves depend on the chemical auxin to keep open the tubes that supply water, sugar and nutrients. But the cooler temperatures and shorter days of Autumn shut off auxin production. The tubes are cut off, and the leaf strangles and dies. Chlorophyll, the green chemical that gives leaves their summer color, disintegrates, leaving behind two other chemicals: yellow carotene and red anthocyanin. Different tree species contain these chemicals in different amounts, resulting in the various colors we see.

Trees are at their most colorful when a cool, wet summer is followed by a sunny, dry fall. Rainfall promotes tree growth, and moderate temperatures prevent scorching in the summer sun. Extra sunlight in the fall allows trees to continue producing their chemicals right up to the end.

Here in Michigan, we had pretty much the opposite – a summer of drought and searing temperatures, followed by a fairly wet fall. The trees have been pretty brown since mid-September, though a few of them are making a late run at color. Don’t bother, boys. We’re depressed enough as it is.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Ben's picture
Ben says:

Ack! How dare you speak ill of football!!! (American football, because i do agree that soccer is pretty boring to watch) ;)

posted on Fri, 10/19/2007 - 6:18am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

i think fall is a wonderrful time. i don't think fall as a time of death and decay. no offense either, i think baseball is the stupidest sport ever. football is way cooler. And winter is so pretty with all the magical snow hanging off the brranches and don't forget christmas is in the winter. the swirling snow gently floating to the sparkling ground.

posted on Fri, 10/19/2007 - 2:11pm
bryan kennedy's picture

I stumbled across this post from last year just now and given that our fall critter cam feature is a decomposing dead pig, I think you hit the nail on the head Gene....season of death.

posted on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 3:15pm
none of your buisness's picture
none of your buisness says:

I think leaves are the prettiest when they change color. Don't you others? (in case you were wondering, I'm posting this coment from the Minnesota Science Museum. Pretty crazy, huh?)

posted on Sat, 10/25/2008 - 4:01pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

'I dont think the "death' really hurts it if you take good care of it but, its an interesting subject

posted on Fri, 12/26/2008 - 7:46pm
Mackerz 223's picture
Mackerz 223 says:

I really don't think the fall is that bad and it's not that cold!

posted on Sat, 12/27/2008 - 7:07pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Tue, 12/30/2008 - 2:42pm
Gene's picture
Gene says:

Cold weather kills things.

So do tornadoes, droughts, floods, avalanches, blizzards, predators, parasites, infestations, and -- worst of all -- cute little bunnies, nibbling poor, defenseless carrots to death!

Human beings scarcely have a monopoly on killing things.

posted on Wed, 03/04/2009 - 7:27pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Wed, 03/04/2009 - 10:44am

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