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The view from St. Peter’s Dome in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest becomes a kaleidoscope of colors in fall. (Contributed photo by Emily Stone.)

We’re lucky to live in this swath of the continent known as the Northwoods, where fall colors are spectacular. Go a little south or head farther north and the forest changes. According to John Pastor, professor emeritus from the University of Minnesota-Duluth, we have the extremes of our climate to thank for this autumn show. There’s something about the contrast of hot summers followed by frigid winters that encourages diversity in the shapes, colors, and lifespans of our trees’ leaves.

At the risk of being a killjoy, I’d like to remind you that fall colors are all about death. We’ll start with a sort of obituary then — an explanation of the leaf lives we lose every fall.

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Tree leaves contain many colorful pigments that each play a role in photosynthesis. Once trees pull green chlorophyll out of their leaves, their yellow and orange pigments shine through. (Contributed photo by Emily Stone.)

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Red maples leaves manufacture a red pigment called anthocyanin. (Contributed photo by Emily Stone.)

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