GREEN MOUNTAINS LOOK
MORE RED THIS SPRING
AP News ~ Montpelier, Vermont ~ May 18, 2002
Instead of the bright green tinge that emerges from young foliage in spring, Vermont's hillsides appear more red this year.
The unusual color is caused by red pigments within leaves known as anthocyanins. The pigments seems to be more prevalent and longer lasting this year, according to Vermont forestry officials.
It may be a response to cold weather, reduced sunlight, last year's drought or air pollution.
"We have seen this happen periodically." said Sandy Wilmot, of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. "Often it's in pockets, in high elevations or only in oaks. This year it's fairly widespread affecting sugar maples and a few other species as well"
Wilmot said Vermonters have reported the red color in forests around the state.
"Some people say the foliage is brown," she said. "If you really look at it, the foliage is not brown. It's green and it's red, There have been inquiries statewide."
This year new leaves emerged nearly a month early, around April 12, and then had to endure weeks of cold weather and even snow. "They don't develop very much further if temperatures aren't warm," she said.
They need warm weather, to develop chlorophyll, which turns leaves green and helps trees grow.
The pigments also produce brilliant reds in fall leaves.
"In other plants they play a role in helping leaves withstand cold temperatures and screen leaves from damaging ultraviolet rays," said Paul Schaberg of the U.S. Forest Service. "Greater red color in fall foliage has been linked to both genetics and plant stress."
Scientists so far are unsure how the prominence of anthocyanins this spring will affect fall leaf color.
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