Autumn and its beautiful leaves

By Roxanne Devonshire

Autumn in Cape Town does not only boast beautiful scenery but is also the best time weather wise. After the scorching summer months that are extremely dry and the South-Eastern wind blowing you away, temperatures go down to a nice 18-degree average. The wind dies down and you can enjoy walking in the country or on the beach without feeling as if you will most likely be blown away. Some days might be colder again and will be the perfect opportunity for a drive to the countryside to visit the beautiful wineland areas and try some of the best wines next to a crackling fireplace. During the drive you can also see the most amazing gold, yellow and red colours of the vineyards changing colour as well as experiencing the crackling of dried leaves while walking around. Other days might be hot and can still be spent on the beach enjoying the outdoors or even taking a hike at either Kirstenbosch or Table Mountain.

I thought it interesting how some of our trees tend to stay evergreen and why others would change colour and, in the end, lose their leaves. It is important to know that the reason why leaves lose their colour is that while the tree species experience moisture loss, which occur in autumn, nutrients are scarce and are retained in the root system. For the process of photosynthesis to occur, the correct amount of nutrients and water needs to be available, as water is not found in high concentrations at this time, the leaves will not produce chlorophyll and the leaves will then turn different colours such as red, orange and ultimately brown. Some trees use transpiration loss methods to help them retain their green colour for example by having a very oily leaf content. This will help maintain the moisture level and will thus keep them evergreen during the dry periods.

Some trees are also made specifically to flower and bear leaves during the winter months to provide food for various animal and insect life. The potato bush (Phyllanthus reticulatus) is a great example as the foliage and berries are eaten by animals during the dry winter months. Another great example is the Anaboom (Faidherbia albida) which only has leaves during the winter months and will be dry and bare in the summer months. These trees provide much needed shade in the dry months to animal species and can be seen along watercourses. It is really so amazing how nature will be in complete balance even during dry months and be able to provide all the needed resources for the natural world around them.

Winter is definitely coming as I am writing this. We are experiencing more rainy days and colder climates. Even though it might make some of us feel depressed to not be able to spend as much time outdoors, we should remember the importance of our rainy season. This is the time where our fynbos and other flowering plant species take up all the water they need to grow and deliver us with the most amazing flowering season in Spring. This is something to really look forward to in Cape Town and this rainy season can be the best time to ensure that all other interesting things to see and do around Cape Town is explored. Visit the aquarium to get a glimpse of our marine life or spend the time tasting all the different white and red wines that our winelands have to offer.