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The Miracle of Fall Foliage

October 15, 2013

Originally posted on Research & Collections:

By Meg Lowman

If one really loves nature, one can find beauty everywhere.

Vincent Van Gogh

There are a few awe-inspiring events hosted by Mother Nature that every child deserves to see — snow falling, sunset on a beach, birds flying, lightning … and fall foliage.

The miracle of fall foliage is a special punctuation mark in the seasonal story of trees. Throughout the temperate forests of North America, red and yellow hillsides appear almost magical each autumn. In North Carolina, the onset of fall foliage spawns economic, emotional and biological activities. Foliage forecasts are featured on some local telecasts because these botanical events create major tourist attractions for visitors to our state.

Life within the phylloplane (“leaf surface”) is more complex than anyone but a botanist could imagine. A leaf represents one of nature’s most extraordinary and complex factories. It houses the only machinery on Earth that manufactures sugars from…

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