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My street is now full of gigantic piles of leaves. We don’t have a tree, but everyone else in our neighborhood does and all of the leaves seemed to have dropped at once. But it turns out that leaves don’t so much fall off as they are pushed.

If trees kept their leaves permanently they wouldn’t have to grow new ones, but leaves are not the brightest of bulbs (sorry!). Every so often, when the winter weather has a break and the days turn warm, Raven says leaves will start photosynthesizing. “They get some water up and they start operating and making food and then it freezes again.”

When the cold snap’s back on, the leaves will be caught with water in their veins, freeze and die. So instead of a food staff that’s resting, the tree is stuck with a food staff that’s dead. And when spring comes, the permanent help will be no help. The tree will die.

That’s why every fall, deciduous trees in many parts of North America get rid of their leaves and grow new ones in the spring. It’s safer that way.

Meanwhile, there’s still a little time to view the great local colors.