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Autumn Leaves: Just Pretty or Poisonous Too?

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Autumn Leaves: Just Pretty or Poisonous Too?

Environment

Autumn Leaves: Just Pretty or Poisonous Too?

Autumn Leaves: Just Pretty or Poisonous Too?

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/4994845/4994846" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Most people look at forests in the fall and see a beautiful panorama. But Erik Nilsen looks at them and sees acts of chemical warfare.

Nilsen, a plant ecologist at Virginia Tech, is one of a growing number of botanists who think brilliantly colored autumn leaves are full of chemicals that poison other plants and trees.

It's a controversial theory with potentially huge agricultural implications, but old-school botanists are highly skeptical.