When I looked out my kitchen window on August 9 and saw some leaves on the trees in our back yard already showing colors of red and orange, I was not too thrilled at the sight. This seemed way too early to me for the color change to happen.

Townsquare Media - Jeff Parsons
Townsquare Media - Jeff Parsons

I posted the picture above on my Facebook page and several people commented that they are seeing the same thing where they are in Maine. What could cause leaves to start changing when there are still over 40 days until fall? I was curious, so of course, I Googled it and found what I suspect is the answer.

Bartlett Tree Experts has a page on their website explaining several things that could cause leaves to turn early. We all know from elementary school that the true colors of leaves are what we see in the fall. As fall approaches, the chlorophyll in the leaves that gives them their green color starts to break down. As it does, the vibrant red, orange and yellow colors are no longer hidden by the bright green of the chlorophyll.

Something is causing these leaves in my backyard and in other people's yards in Maine to stop producing chlorophyll which Bartlett Tree Experts says is a sign of distress. It likely is caused by one of three different things. Moisture stress, root damage or insects. Remember how July was the second wettest July in Portland on record? Too little, or in our case this year, too much moisture can cause stress, which causes less chlorophyll production, resulting in leaves turning color before their time.

Upon closer inspection, the branch these leaves are on in the photos seems to be in bad shape. The tree doesn't appear to be on my property, so there's not much I can do to save it which may have been the case if it was on my property anyway.

So if you're seeing leaves starting to turn already, now you know what could be at the "root" of the problem.

See what I did there?


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