With the first day of fall officially passed, the countdown for peak fall foliage begins. But what actually makes the leaves change from greens into the colors we associate with the changing of the seasons? 

The bright yellows, oranges and reds that make fall so vibrant (at least for a couple of weeks) don't just come from the colder weather. In fact, according to the Farmers' Almanac, different things cause each different color. 

Oranges and yellows come from compounds called carotenoids, which are present in leaves year-round and also give carrots their orange color. As the weather cools and days get shorter, the chlorophyll in the leaves breaks down, turns colorless instead of green and allows the carotenoids to show through, making the leaves orange and yellow. 

Find out when autumn leaves are set to peak in your area with this tool

Reds are a little different. Trees actually produce the pigment, anthocyanin, in the fall. The anthocyanin acts as a sunscreen for the leaves, keeping them protected from bright light until spring. It has also been shown that anthocyanins ward off insects. 

Yellows and oranges can be found in aspen, ash, birch, beech, hickories, maples, some oaks, tulip poplar and sassafras trees, while reds are common in red maples, black gums, dogwoods, sourwood and oak trees. 

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