I have been admiring the beautiful colors of the blossoms on our fruit trees and the flowering dogwoods. Spring brings new life to the natural world. Everything changes daily as the bulb plants wake up and emerge from the ground. Yet, even with all the beautiful colors, I enjoy spring green.
Green is a very relaxing color. The new leaves on the trees transform them from ghost-like stalks to luxurious, living umbrellas ready to provide shade from the summer heat. But, have you ever noticed that the green of tree leaves seems more vibrant in the spring than in summertime? There is a reason for that. It isn’t just your imagination.
Leaves are green because of the chlorophyll they contain. That amazing chemical makes it possible for plants to take energy from the Sun, moisture from the ground, and carbon dioxide from the air to make sugars that power their growth. We call that extremely complex process photosynthesis, and we have discussed that before on this website. The chlorophyll is contained in chloroplasts in the leaves. The chloroplasts absorb light, but they use more of the higher energy blue and red wavelengths and reflect much of the green. When we see spring green leaves, they contain fewer chloroplasts, so they absorb less light, making the green leaves appear bright and vibrant.
Chloroplasts multiply as the season wears on, so the leaves absorb more light. Also, the cuticles, or outer layer of the leaves, and the cell walls in the leaves become thicker. Those factors, which are part of the leaf’s maturing process, cause it to appear darker. I wonder if we also become less conscious of the green after we have seen it for a few weeks. When the dark tree trunks of winter become hidden by beautiful green leaves, we take notice. Our attention changes when we have seen the spring green and become overwhelmed by the summer.
In autumn, when the chloroplasts fade, the vibrant colors of other chemicals in the leaves catch our attention. Spring green and autumn gold and red can jar us into realizing the beauty of the world. However, we should not need sudden changes to make us conscious of the beauty of God’s wonders all around us. Evidence for God is there if we are willing to look. “For his invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20 CSB).
— Roland Earnst © 2023