2021 - Leaf peeping in Eureka Springs!
This year, 2021, October 18 to November 1 is predicted to be the peak time in Eureka Springs, AR to observe the beautiful changing leaves.
Some consider it to be the most incredible time of the year. Gorgeous colors vibrantly encoring the end of summer as the trees put themselves to bed for the long sleep of winter. Eureka Springs, Arkansas floods with thousands of visitors all hoping to achieve a breathtaking view of this beautiful renaissance of nature.
The beauty of nature is sometimes found in the profound ‘intelligence’ it exudes. Perennials, which includes trees, must protect themselves in order to get through the harsh, freezing temperatures of winter. If trees did not shed their leaves, their soft vegetation would certainly freeze during winter time, damaging and, no doubt, killing the tree.
In order to cope with the grueling winter temperatures, trees slowly close off the veins that carry water and nutrients to and from the leaves with a layer of new cells that form at the base of the leaf stem, protecting the limbs and body of the tree. Once the process of new cell creation is complete, water and nutrients no longer flow to and from the leaf - this enables the leaf to die and weaken at the stem, eventually falling gracefully to the ground.
Photosynthesis begins this process. Leaves typically produce their vivid hues of green from spring through summer into early fall through the constant creation of Chlorophyll. As we all likely learned in our 5th grade science class, Chlorophyll is the key component in a plant's ability to turn sunlight into glucose, which in turn feeds the tree to which they are attached. Many millions of these Chlorophyll cells saturate the leaves, ultimately making them appear green to the eye.
But Chlorophyll is not the only player in this colorful story. Present in other leaves and trees are compounds known as Carotenoids and Anthocyanins. As the days begin to get shorter and shorter in Autumn, the production of Chlorophyll slows to a hault, eventually giving way to the ‘true’ color of the leaf.
Beta-Carotene is one of the most common carotenoids present in most leaves. Strongly absorbing blue and green light, it reflects yellow and red light from the sun, giving leaves their stunning orange hue.
Unlike the carotenoids, anthocyanin production increases dramatically throughout the season of autumn. This protects the leaf, prolonging its life on the tree and also provides the beautiful red color to the leaf.
Flavonols, a part of the flavonoid family, are always present in leaves, and also contribute to the yellow color of egg yolks. While always present in leaves, it’s not seen until the production of Chlorophyll stops and Chlorophyll is broken down into other compounds.
Earth, among other things, is fantastic at recycling. Whether through the water cycle, or the slow process of decomposing plants and trees back in to rich soil, the Earth wastes very little.
When leaves fall to the ground, they begin to break down and eventually create a rich humus on the forest floor that absorbs dew and rainfall. This nutrient rich ‘sponge’ acts as a continual source of nutrients and water for trees and plants, helping to promote life and plant health in the next spring season.
It is not difficult to conclude that while the falling of the leaves protects the trees through winter, it’s likely that trees would not survive as well without the rich layer of dead leaves through the warm spring and summer months. In this way, trees' natural cycle provides health and sustainability for itself year after year.
Autumn in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the surrounds is truly delightful. There is much to see, do and experience. While the influx of Covid-19 protocols and cancellations have impacted our town and the various events, activities and experiences in and around town, please check out this link to a pre-pandemic blog post about "things to do" in this area and pumpkin patches to visit. Be sure to check with those businesses directly to ensure they are operating and welcoming visitors.
In addition, there are our natural springs. These city parks are well manicured and offer some delightful views of our local flora and fauna during Autumn as well. Check out this link to learn about the many natural flowing springs in and around our beloved Eureka Springs.
Stay safe and enjoy this beautiful time of year in our beautiful Eureka Springs, Arkansas.❤️