The evolution of autumn leaf coloration

‘Fiery’ autumn coloration of temperate trees, ranging from pale yellow, orange, and purple to dark red, is one of the most beautiful and fascinating phenomena in nature (see youtube video here). However, little is known about the evolutionary forces causing variation in leaf colors within and among species. Ecological (co-evolution with herbivores) as well as physiological mechanisms (light and frost protection) have been proposed to explain the evolution of autumn colors, but most theories are untested. To study leaf coloration and its correlates in the angiosperms I am integrating field observations, phylogenetic comparative approaches, and forest inventory data.

Autumn in the Munich Botanical Garden
Leaf senescence in autumn of Zelkova serrata


Related publications:

Renner SS, Zohner CM (2019). The occurrence of red and yellow autumn leaves explained by regional differences in insolation and temperature. New Phytologist. get PDF

Archetti M (2000) The origin of autumn colours by coevolution. J. Theor. Biol. 205, 625–630.