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Why do leaves change color in the fall?

Leaves manufacture their green color! When leaves shut down for winter, they stop producing chlorophyll, which is what makes the leaves green. Here's how it works.

Plants make their own food. They take water from the ground through their roots. They take a gas called carbon dioxide from the air. They turn water and carbon dioxide into food using sunlight and something called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is green. It gives leaves their green color.

Diagram of Photosynthesis

Winter days are short and dry. Many plants stop making food in the fall. The chlorophyll goes away and leaves turn colors.

Some leaves turn orange or yellow. These colors were in the leaves all summer, but the green covered them up.

Some leaves turn red. This color is made in the fall, from food trapped in the leaves. Brown colors are also made in the fall. They come from wastes left in the leaves.

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