Museum of Science and Industry

See the Colors in Leaves

Step 6 of 6: What's happening?

Key Terms Defined

A method for analyzing complex mixtures by separating them into the chemicals from which they are made.
The coloring in the tissue of plants

Plant pigments play an important role in capturing light for photosynthesis. These pigments give leaves their colors. Chlorophyll pigment makes leaves green and allows the plant to capture energy from the sun for photosynthesis. Anthocyanins make leaves red. Carotenoids make leaves yellow.

In the fall, trees prepare for winter by shutting down photosynthesis. As this happens, the chlorophyll disappears from the leaves. As this happens, the green color fades and we begin to see yellow and orange – colors that have been there all along, but were hidden by the green pigment. Sugars trapped inside the leaves react with light and other chemicals to reveal new colors.

Museum Hours
  • Daily from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Open daily except Thanksgiving and Christmas
More Information

Museum Location
Museum of Science+Industry
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
1 (773) 684-1414
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