Impressive displays of vibrant autumn hues are expected this year if weather conditions remain consistent over the coming weeks, according to Forestry Commission England.
The warm temperatures, lots of sunshine and spells of rain experienced during the summer, twinned with recent dry, warm early-autumn days and cooler nights is a promising recipe for a spectacular show of seasonal colour in England’s woods and forests.
Unless weather conditions change dramatically, it is anticipated that the colours will peak in the third to fourth week of October and will stay into early November, when native beech and oak will provide the ‘second autumn’ display. Species such as the native spindle and dogwood may already be showing the very early signs of autumn in back gardens across the country. However, the start of the season can be easily mistaken.
Simon Toomer, Director at the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, explains:“Many factors contribute to when a tree will change colour and drop its leaves. Conditions like shallow soils and drought can cause trees stress, triggering the leaves to change colour and drop early.
“We think of this as a ‘false autumn’ because at the end of the summer unhealthy trees can easily be mistaken as displaying the early signs of autumn.”
Colour change starts to occur as the days become shorter and the evening temperatures are cooler. At this time the green chlorophyll in the leaves starts to disappear, exposing the yellow and orange hues. Sunny weather concentrates the sugar in the leaf which speeds up the appearance of red hues.
Toomer continues: “At the moment it’s all still to play for because the early autumn weather is in our favour to create a vibrant seasonal show. The recent rain and forecast for the coming weeks of warm, dry conditions and some above average temperatures are ideal for maintaining sugar levels so that leaves stay attached to trees for longer and have time to develop their autumnal shades.
“This weather has followed a good summer for England’s trees. We’ve had plenty of sunshine to build up sugar levels in the leaves and promote a colourful autumn. The wet start to August helped to prevent drought and encourage tree growth and the dry weather continuing into September has helped the early stages of colour change.”
During the season, Forestry Commission England is encouraging visitors to woods and forests to document their autumn discoveries by posting images of autumnal colour on social media channels using the hashtag #LeafPeepingUK.
With more than 1,500 forests and woods in England and over half of the population living within six miles of their nearest forest, there are ample opportunities to get out and enjoy the beautiful wash of colour and the crunch of dry foliage underfoot over the autumn months.
For more information on how to experience autumn in a forest near you visit www.forestry.gov.uk/autumn. Follow Forestry Commission England on Twitter with @ForestryCommEng and on Facebook at Forestry Commission Woods and Forests.