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Chlorophyll to mostly xanthophyll

If you follow us on Twitter (@localecologist), you already know that the first version of this post was eaten by the proverbial dog.  Since the time we drafted the essay and now, fall color has peaked in the city.  In some places you can still see brilliant yellows and yellow-oranges.  Although there are three classes of pigments responsible for fall color in broadleaf, deciduous trees, the most common public trees across the five boroughs exhibit in the yellow-orange-brown range.  Yellows are produced by xanthophyll, oranges by carotenoid, and reds and purples by anthocyanin.

The ten most common street trees across NYC's five boroughs and their associated fall colors are:

London planetree (yellow),
Littleleaf linden (yellow),
Norway maple (depends on the cultivar),
Green ash (yellow),
Callery pear (depends on the cultivar),
Red maple (red),
Honeylocust (yellow),
Silver maple (yellow),
Pin oak (red-brown),
Ginkgo (yellow)

If you spot red- and purple-leaves this time of year excluding those on the above list, you might be looking at "purple-leaved" plums, Japanese or Norway maples or anthocyanin-leaved sweetgums and Zelkovas.  A good thing about the "dog eating my homework" is that I read about the map of potential autumn colors of street trees" in Somerville, Massachusetts created by Bostonography in the November 11 issue of The Atlantic Cities.  If such a map existed for NYC I could diversify my autumn colors of trees photo collection!


Then & Now: Mercer Street Plaza in Fall 2010 and Summer 2011
Munich awash in carotenoids, too in 2010


Anonymous said…

I'm writing from the Museum of the City of New York and would like to speak to you about using one of these photographs in an upcoming exhibition. My email is

Hope to hear from you!

All the best,