We had the privilege this past week of hiking with some friends to a mountain lake in the Cabinet Wilderness near our home in northwest Montana. What a beautiful time to be up in the mountains where the colors show up in the fall a little ahead of in the valley. The huckleberry bushes had turned from green to a bright crimson. With the sun filtering through the tall fir, hemlock and spruce trees, the scene was alive with “burning bushes.” Complementing them were the shades of yellow and orange from the mountain ash and mountain maple. As we hiked, I couldn’t help but often utter, “Wow,” as I was just in awe of the strokes of the brush of our Master Artist, the Creator, the Lord Jesus Christ, who designed these plants and trees to display all this color as autumn arrives. The trees and bushes in the valley are also beginning to display their beautiful fall array of colors. What a beautiful time of year!!
When God created plants and animals, He incorporated in their DNA the ability to adapt to cooler temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight in the fall and winter months. The whitetail deer that frequent our place year-round have already put on their “winter coats” which will help them survive as temperatures plummet this winter. They are also eating everything in sight to build up their fat reserves for the coming months when food will be scarce.
God designed many plants and trees to drop their leaves before winter when it would take a lot of energy and water to keep their leaves healthy when it is cold and dry and with fewer hours of sunlight. As the leaves drop, the place on the branch where they attach is sealed up for the winter to protect the tree. As the leaves drop to the ground they also help insulate the roots of the tree from the cold which will soon freeze the ground. All part of God’s plan!
But why such an amazing display of color before the leaves drop? Well, again it is another manifestation of the magnificent wisdom of our Creator. Within each leaf, God placed different molecules called “pigments” to help provide the tree with food and to protect it. These pigments give the leaves their color. The pigment causing leaves to be green is “chlorophyll” which uses sunlight to make food for the tree. During spring and summer when there is plenty of sunlight, plants make a lot of chlorophyll. But in autumn, as the temperatures drop and the hours of sunlight decrease, the tree breaks down the chlorophyll into smaller molecules which are absorbed so that when spring arrives, the trees can use those molecules to remake the chlorophyll.
As the chlorophyll breaks down, the other pigments in the leaves can display their colors. The “carotenoid” pigments are different shades of yellow and orange. Other pigments, called “anthocyanins,” are red, pink or purple. These pigments also protect the leaves from being eaten or getting sunburned.
So, as a by-product of this amazing design of our Creator, we get to observe the beauty of fall. I believe God had us in mind when He incorporated these features in the plants and trees He created. Just as “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands” (Psa. 19:1), so do the plants and trees all about us point us to our awesome God “who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy” (I Tim. 6:17). As you observe the changing colors of fall, give God the praise for His wonderful design and thank Him for allowing us to enjoy it all with Him. Remember, after the six days of creation, “God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). Amen!