Many plant leaves appear red in the autumn, and many papers have focused on the environmental factors and role of anthocyanin in this process. However few papers have examined the substances that are induced during this process. We hypothesised that excess sugar accumulation directly induces anthocyanin accumulation under autumn conditions. Using two methods (restricting phloem movement and exogenous sucrose feeding), we found that both surplus photosynthate and exogenous sucrose could induce anthocyanin biosynthesis, corresponding to up-regulation of several enzymes involved in anthocyanin biosynthesis (phenylalanine ammonia lyase, chalcone isomerase, dihydroflavonol 4-reductase and flavonoid 3-O-glucosyl transferase) and in transport (glutathione S-transferase). Our results suggest that excess carbohydrate may be the proximate trigger for induction of anthocyanin biosynthesis in autumn, but only when carbohydrates are accumulated for storage.