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Autumn leaves: why, what, where, when?

April 1, 2019 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Trees and leaves are already changing colour, prompting autumn-lovers to start planning a visit to the state’s hotspots.

And with the season’s mild weather it’s certainly a great time to get outside and reap the benefits of being in nature.

To make sure you can both talk-the-talk and walk-the-walk, here’s the lowdown on autumn leaves.

Why do leaves change colour?

Though autumn leaves look vivid, the reds, oranges and yellows that you see are actually the result of diminishing chlorophyll – the green pigment that helps a tree absorb energy from the sun. As sunlight hours reduce during autumn, so too does chlorophyll as trees go into survival mode for the approaching cold weather. Without the dominant green, other colours in the leaves begin to show.

Why don’t all trees change colour?

It’s in the leaves. Evergreen trees, like eucalypts and conifers, remain green throughout the year because their leaves, often leathery, waxy or needle-like, can better withstand cold conditions. Not so for deciduous trees with their softer, broad-shaped leaves. Elms, oaks and maples are good examples of deciduous trees that put on a show of colour.

What happens to all those fallen leaves?

Not just for kicking and throwing in the air, fallen leaves from Autumn trees can also contribute to the health of the environment (and at home, added to your garden mulch). Bacteria, fungi and microorganisms feed on decomposing leaves, releasing nutrients into the soil and making it richer for other matter to then grow.

Where to go?

Although much of Victoria is covered by evergreen eucalypts, deciduous trees can be found in streets, reserves and parks almost everywhere. Popular areas to see abundant autumn colour include Victoria’s high country, spa country, the Yarra Valley, Dandenong Ranges, and many town and city botanical gardens.

Here’s a list of top parks for autumn colour: https://parkweb.vic.gov.au/about-us/news/victorias-top-parks-for-vibrant-autumn-colour-delights

When to go?

The parks around Macedon, Bright and the Dandenong Ranges are very popular, especially on weekends when car-parking can be difficult to find. For a bit of autumn tranquillity, sneak a midweek visit, go in the early morning or consider nearby alternatives. For example, instead of Macedon, explore the parks and reserves around Trentham, Glenlyon and Castlemaine.

While many trees are already changing, hold off your visit until later in the season to allow the leaves to progress to a more vivid colour.

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