Title

Anthocyanins in Autumn Leaf Senescence

Date of this Version

2002

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Anthocyanins are synthesized during leaf senescence in certain plants across virtually all biomes, but are most spectacular in the autumn foliage of temperate deciduous forests. The patterns of color production in senescing foliage depend at least partly upon species composition and their phenology. Both ecological and physiological explanations have been raised to explain why plants produce this pigment just before leaf fall. Physiological explanations, as photoprotection, predict that cyanic leaves would be better able to resorb nitrogen during the process of chlorophyll degradation. Ecological explanations predict better dispersal of propagules advertised by association with the brilliantly colored leaves (plausible for only a minority of species), or warning against egg-laying activity of herbivorous insects, as aphids. These hypotheses make predictions that we now can test, to help us understand this old mystery - and majestic phenomenon.

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