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5 best places to see autumn’s colours in Europe

It’s peak leaf-turning time all over the Northern Hemisphere. Here are five of our favourite leafy destinations in Europe, plus a little bit of the science behind changing leaf colour.

5 best places to see autumn’s colours in Europe

If you live in Europe, there are few better places to view the variety of gorgeous autumnal colours than in the UK, Spain, France, Switzerland and Germany.

1. The Picos de Europa National Park in northern Spain

5 best places to see autumn’s colours in Europe

2. The rolling hills of Tuscany in Italy

5 best places to see autumn’s colours in Europe

3. The beech tree covered Chilterns, in the UK

5 best places to see autumn’s colours in Europe

4. The French Alps in autumn are prefect for hiking before the snows come

5 best places to see autumn’s colours in Europe

5. The countryside near Munich in Bavaria, Germany

5 best places to see autumn’s colours in Europe

What makes leaves turn from green to yellow, red and orange?

Leaves are little “food factories” full of a compound called chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green colour in spring and summer. The leaves also contain carotenoids (the chemicals that gives carrots their orange colour). During the spring and summer the chlorophyll’s green colour masks the orange carotenoids, and so we see green leaves.

At the onset of autumn, with its shorter days and cooler temperatures, the leaves slow down and eventually stop their food-making process and no longer need the chlorophyll. It begins to break down, allowing the orange carotenoids to shine through.

The late summer-early autumn weather also affects another group of chemicals in the leaves called anthocyanins. This is the group that makes plums and red grapes red. The bright, warm weather during typical September days stimulates leaves to produce lots of sugar, but the cooler September nights inhibits the trees from using it. That leads to a build-up of sugars in the leaves, which triggers anthocyanin production, which in turn produces the impressive array of red colours.

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