Hot summer conkers an early start to the season
AFTER the first ripe conker of the year in the South East was spotted in Bucks in 2017, the Woodland Trust is reporting a delay to this year’s debut crop.
The charity claims the sizzling summer heatwave and prolonged drought has caused a delay across the region to this popular first sign of autumn.
In 2017 – through its Nature’s Calendar recording project – the first sighting of a ripe conker in the South East was on July 17 in Buckinghamshire, then August 5 in Oxfordshire and August 9 in East Sussex - but this year there have been none in the region.
The first sighting nationally this year was in Wiltshire on August 18.
The charity said the hot weather, coupled with the lack of water, could have delayed the horse chestnut trees ripening their fruit.
Martha Boalch, citizen science officer for the Woodland Trust, said: “The ripening of conkers is delayed this year and there are many factors that could come into play. This year’s heatwave will have encouraged fruit to grow more rapidly, but lack of water may have stopped conkers from growing to their full potential. Tree pests and diseases such as the horse chestnut leaf miner and bleeding canker can also affect the health of horse chestnut trees.”
But she said all is not lost: “Although we’ve only had a small number of conkers recorded so far, all is not lost for our favourite sign of autumn.
“Over the next month we would expect more fruit to ripen, but only time will tell whether this will be a bumper crop.
“For this reason, we need more people to tell us about what they see happening with local flora and fauna.
“By recording seasonal changes with our Nature’s Calendar project, we can assess how nature is coping with a changing climate – and inform wider studies.”
Through its Nature’s Calendar project the Woodland Trust relies on the public recording signs of nature through its website naturescalendar. woodlandtrust.org.uk
The data helps the charity understand how nature is affected by weather and climate change.