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Forget everything you know about the U.K.

Oof ... will someone please hand them some hot cocoa? Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.


OK, maybe not everything. Just hear me out.

Sure, it rains there (sometimes a lot). And the average mean temperature is a measly 53 degrees Fahrenheit (give or take).

I got that fact here, where you can learn more about the U.K.'s not-exactly-tropical climate. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

But! You're missing out if you think England's a cold, wet wasteland all the time. Because autumn across the pond...

Hyde Park in London, England. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

...is freaking gorgeous.

Palladian Bridge near Warminster, England. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

And while English autumns may seem like they look exactly like autumn in North America...


Pickering, England. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images.

There's actually one (very) big difference.

Wisley, England. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Can you spot it?

London, England. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

The trees! You'll see lots more red in North America. And while red leaves do exist in England, their trees overwhelmingly feature more shades of yellow and orange.

See? 50 shades of yellow, spotted in Bath, England. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Why is that exactly? Well, a a study done in 2009 suggests the answer dates back about 35 million years.

Knutsford, U.K. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

The study found that ice ages affected the evolution of deciduous trees in North America differently than in Europe.

You can spot trees this red in England, but you're much more likely to find them in the U.S. Like in Kentucky, for example (seen above). Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images.

Europe's mountain chain configurations stopped animals and insects from migrating away from the cold, unlike in North America. So plenty of species were killed off.

Stourhead, U.K. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Trees in North America, however, evolved throughout the years to protect themselves from many of the species that had died in Europe (like, say, insect predators).

Concord, Massachusetts. Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images.

So … what's that have to do with North America's red leaves?

Woodford, Vermont. Photo by Stan Honda/Getty Images.

Red leaves are red because of a certain pigment produced only in cooler months, called anthocyanin.

Washington, D.C. Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Orange and yellow leaves, however, aren't produced by some special pigment. They're on deciduous trees all year long, and only pop when chlorophyll on green leaves breaks down during the cooler months.

Bristol, England. Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

It's believed anthocyanin (the red pigment) may protect trees from things like super-cold freezes, harsh sunlight, and — yep, you guessed it — insect predators.

London, England. Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

So, as one theory goes, North America gets redder leaves because its trees evolved with animals and insects that were out to get them all those millions of years ago.

Pretty neat stuff.

Amenia, New York. Photo by Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images.

This research is explained superbly in a video by Slate, by the way. Check it out.

If there's one thing you learn today...

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

...let it be that the science behind autumn is sort of incredible.

Amenia, New York. Photo by Don Emmert/Getty Images.

And the results are beautiful, too — no matter what side of the pond you're on.

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True

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