Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Saturday, 10 November 2012


A blackberry branch with lots of bright red leaves. The ones behind are yellow and green.
November 9th 2012

When leaves are under stress, they can turn red. I don't know why. Nor do I know why some leaves do it and others on the same plant don't. They can do it in the middle of the summer - one bright leaf in a sea of green. Even in autumn, when we might expect browns and yellows, they catch the eye.

This post highlights blackberry leaves, not because they are the only kind which can go red like this, but because there are more blackberries here than almost any other kind of plant and these are the ones one notices just now. In the summer I saw a dandelion with one deep red leaf when all the others on the plant were green. Like a special streak you might put in your hair for a party. (Or, maybe not you . . . or, maybe you should try it . . . ? Solidarity with the plant world.)

Yesterday afternoon, I set out to photograph some. This, of course, was quite the wrong moment and the post is now as much about how quickly gloom comes in on November evening as it is about leaves.

Sun shining through blackberry leaf - showing orange and red patterns.
November 9th 2012  

The colour doesn't necessarily touch the whole leaf, it can be partial and patterned.

Red and Black Blackberries in same bunch.
November 9th 2012

This picture, of course, is irrelevant - except that the bright red dots of unripened blackberry fruits brighten the hedgerows too. Maybe this bunch says something about the direction from which the sun shines most?

Two, uniformly red, leaves in the gathering gloom.
November 9th 2012

The light is going. We may miss the special touch of sunlight but red leaves still stand out.

Red and yellow stripes on two blackberry leaves.
November 9th 2012

In their variety.
* * *
Following a View

The view we're following to show the changes in seasons - Sandsfoot Castle, Dorset, England
November 8th 2012

Leaves on the right hand tree are almost all gone now. As vegetation recedes, houses on the left are revealed.

Notice too, the blackberry tangle. You'll see that red is certainly not the dominant colour!

* * *

This, I think, below, is my favourite of the red-leaved-group. I'm putting it separately for two reasons. First because it was taken a day before the others. Second because there's some kind of miner activity. Maybe that's got something to do with it?

Red lines showing leaf miner damage - but that's clearly not the only reason for them.
November 9th 2012

But that can't be the explanation. Masses of leaves have miner damage but the patterns go yellow or brown, not red. Nor do miners synchronise their burrowing to create the kind of symmetry you see here.

I don't know!
Interesting though.

P.S. This , it may strike you, is a stunningly information free, un-erudite, post.
If you would  like to leave an explanation for these reds and patterns in the comments, please do. Don't worry about its length.
Otherwise, if there's something which could usefully be added to this post, do email me at
and I'll add it in.


Rowan said...

I noticed a lot of red leaves during the summer especially on a couple of young oak trees. I'd put it down to the excessive rain followed by a long dry period - I suspect that any kind of strees can have this result on individual trees and planrs though.

Donna said...

My blackberries, blueberries and maples turn red during autumn for the reasons of less light and therefore less photosynthesis so the red pigment already in the leaves comes out now. Of course the colder nights help as does stress from drought etc.

But that is from my climate. Not sure Lucy about yours, but I would imagine it has to do with some lack of photosynthesis as well due to stress or climate.

Lucy said...

Hi, Rowan and Donna. I'd understand it better if the whole plant went red (like the maples and blueberries you mention, Donna) but . . . when just one leaf goes red, or a few . . . how does their life experience differ from that of their neighbours on the same plant - same roots, same climate.

Anonymous said...

Fascinating! I shall now have to take a close look at my plot blackberry bush to see if it has any red leaves.
Flighty xx

Lyn said...

I don't know but glad you shared it with us!

Toffeeapple said...

I don't know how it works but I am very glad that it happens, especially as I saw a magnificent Liquidambar tree on Sunday, which was gloriously red.

catmint said...

dear Lucy, i know there is a scientific explanation but I love your approach to just observe closely and ask questions. It's brilliant - I think questions are more important than answers to get us thinking and stirring our imaginations!