Fall foliage Q&A with Dr. Leif Mann

foliage1By John Breneman

Autumn foliage in New England is said to be the finest in the world. But there is much about this annual cornucopia of color that we do not know. So today we check in with noted foliage expert Dr. Leif Mann, who has generously agreed to answer a few questions from readers.

Question: Where should I go to see the peak foliage?
— Bud Smith, Exeter

Answer: The most glorious foliage in all the world can be seen in a quaint Maine hamlet called Carotene Falls. Unfortunately, you can’t get there from here.

Question: If there is too much foliage in my yard, should I use a defoliant?
— Biff Dupont, New Castle

Answer: No. A defoliant is a chemical that strips growing plants of their leaves. Believe it or not, if you just wait a bit the leaves will fall off the trees by themselves.

Question: My trees are still kind of green. Should I consider paying a college kid to come and spray-paint them?
— Sherwin Williams, Portsmouth

Answer: No. I have found that it’s best to hire an experienced painting contractor if you want the job done right.

Question: Why are the trees so pretty in the fall?

— Jenny, age 4

Answer: Well you see Jenny, leaves contain some green stuff called chlorophyll. But the cold weather breaks down the chlorophyll in most deciduous plant life forms. When that happens, other pigments contained in the leaves (xanthophyll, yellow; caretenoids, orange-red; anthocyanins, red and purple) come shining through.

Question: Oh, why are there no blue leaves?
— Jenny, age 4

Answer: Uh… Because.

Question: How can I protect my children from seeing foliage on the Internet?
— Jenny’s mom

Answer: Of course, it is best to shield your child from all external stimuli, but that is not always possible. Instead, you might consider raking up a big pile of leaves, starting a bonfire, then throwing your computer into the center of the flames.

Question: Who makes all the oxygen for humans to breathe?
— Mikey, age 5

Answer: Plants and trees.

Question: Why are humans destroying the rain forests?
— Mikey, age 5

Answer: Too much oxygen.

Question: Are travel agents authorized to arrange obscenely expensive leaf-peeping excursions for wealthy tourists?
— Arthur Mulch, Bar Harbor

Answer: Yes, my sources in the industry tell me that a Hampton travel agent is now offering a seven-day, seven-night “Leaf Safari” package that starts with a champagne-and-hot-tub limousine ride to the White Mountains. There, the group will be flown to scenic Moosehead Lake aboard the S.S. Equinox, a luxury dirigible that serves braised lobster and offers unparalleled autumn vistas from the air. Tour organizers also have arranged for a partial eclipse of the sun to create a spectacular once-in-a-lifetime visual foliage extravaganza.

book green manQuestion: What can we, as humans, learn from the humble leaf?
— Ban Ki-moon, United Nations

Answer: Well, if humans could develop the ability to produce our own nourishment using the miracle of photosynthesis, we could solve world hunger and increase our disposal income without triggering a windfall profits tax.

Question: Do leaves go to heaven?
— Jenny, age 4

Answer: Yes.

Triple Action News columnist John Breneman has given up red meat in favor of photosynthesis. Learn more in his forthcoming book “Supremacy of the Green Man.”


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