This weekend, New York City transformed into a vibrant wonderland thanks to the annual changing of the leaves. This autumnal glow is always brief but brilliant, and it’s safe to say it all peaked this weekend. But what do we really know about these leaves that are now carpeting the city?
The color changes—as you likely learned in your first-ever science class—are due to changes in the length of daylight, temperatures, and a chlorophyll breakdown process. But as you step all over the temporarily leaf-laden sidewalks, here are a few more things to consider.
First off, how exactly did they all get there? SUNY’s College of Environmental Science & Forestry offers a nice overview of fall foliage, noting that “at the point where the stem of the leaf is attached to the tree, a special layer of cells develops and gradually severs the tissues that support the leaf… the tree seals the cut, so that when the leaf is finally blown off by the wind or falls from its own weight, it leaves behind a leaf scar.” Tragic. Poetic. Beautiful.
Read More: Behold, The Spectacular Fall Foliage On Governors Island From Above
Now, as you stare at the splendor beneath your feet, you may want to identify which leaves belong to which tree—in which case, NYC Parks has you covered with this delightful little explainer:
And now we must rage, rage against the dying of the leaves, but the inevitable awaits — we will soon enter the long, cold darkness of winter. We’ll always have our memories, though, and if you would like to preserve yours here, please email your best fall foliage 2021 photos to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: FALL FOLIAGE (include the location and how you would like to be credited).