Nature Notes from Common Ground
Week of March 29, 2021
At first glance, the early spring garden appears to be a vast expanse of brown. It doesn't look like much is happening -- it’s just bed after bed covered in leaves. Closer observation, however, reveals some beautiful discoveries. Poke around under the leaf mulch, and you’ll find perennial plants beginning to put out new growth. Some plants are hardy enough that leaves from last year have even survived the winter. Those dead-looking kale and collard skeletons are actually topped with tiny curls of green leaves.
Last week, a visitor to our garden noticed that some of the leaves in our garden were tinged with purple! We wondered why that was. It turns out that the purple color is from anthocyanin, a pigment in the leaves. Dedicated Nature Notes readers may remember anthocyanin as the pigment that causes red and purple colors in fall foliage. Do you remember why the reds and purples from anthocyanin show up in fall leaves? If you said it’s due to the green chlorophyll breaking down, allowing the other pigments to show their colors, you’ve got a great memory!
A similar thing was happening to our leaves in the garden. As the days got shorter with less sunlight to capture, the leaves began to produce less chlorophyll. Less green chlorophyll gave the purple anthocyanin a chance to shine. Anthocyanins also help protect plants in cold weather. So it may be that in addition to less chlorophyll, plants also produce more anthocyanin, deepening the purple hue.
When Tim went back a few days later to take some photos, he noticed that the purple had already begun to fade with the increasing light and temperatures. Now’s the chance to see if you can spy any of these lingering purple leaves before the plants dress up in their brightest greens for summer!
Nature activity of the week
Did you know that there are art supplies right under your feet? People have been using soil to make art forever. Check out these instructions for making paint from soil!
Hike of the Week
Outdoor Adventure in Niantic
Each week we share a family-friendly hike or outdoor adventure. Click here to explore the boardwalk, beach, and bookstore in Niantic!
Chicks and Chickens!
Registration for Common Ground's Summer Camp opens this Thursday, April 1!
About this series
In this time of virtual learning and social distancing, we seek to support teachers and families in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your students or your family engage in nature-based learning, whether you are learning in person or virtually.
Some of the funding we rely on to keep Nature Notes free comes from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation and The Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund, established by the South Central CT Regional Water Authority.