The Daily Telegraph

Au­tumn hues at the mercy of Storm Alex

High winds and heavy rain risk ru­in­ing ‘spec­tac­u­lar’ dis­plays of colour­ful leaves, Na­tional Trust warns

- By He­lena Hor­ton Weather · Climate Change · Ecology · National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty · United Kingdom · Wiltshire · Sheffield · East Sussex · Surrey · Speke · Winkworth Arboretum

STORM Alex risks ru­in­ing a “spec­tac­u­lar” dis­play of au­tumn leaves, the Na­tional Trust has warned.

The char­ity is get­ting ready to show­case its bright and colour­ful leaves across the land, af­ter per­fect con­di­tions for a gor­geous au­tumn were seen over the last few weeks. Warm sunny sum­mers help to in­crease the leaf sugar con­tent, re­sult­ing in a range of pig­ments – from reds and or­anges, to greens, golds and browns – as leaves turn.

Weather pat­terns will need to re­main favourable through the first half of Oc­to­ber for a mem­o­rable dis­play, with enough sun­shine, cold con­di­tions at night and no in­tense storms or rain­fall.

Over the week­end, the UK was hit by gale-force winds and dra­matic rain­fall, which could cause leaves to fall early.

Cli­mate change means an in­creased like­li­hood that storms and vi­o­lent winds dur­ing sum­mer and au­tumn will bring leaves down sooner.

Sum­mer droughts are not good for au­tumn colour ei­ther. Luck­ily, this year’s con­di­tions were good for leaves – with good lev­els of rain.

Si­mon Toomer, the trust’s spe­cial­ist for plant con­ser­va­tion, said: “Au­tumn in the north­ern hemi­sphere is one of the nat­u­ral world’s great spec­ta­cles. It starts in the far north­ern de­cid­u­ous forests and pro­gresses south­wards to the warm tem­per­ate re­gions over about a 10-week pe­riod. North­ern gar­dens and wood­lands are there­fore a week or two ahead of the most southerly.

“The pri­mary trig­ger for trees to be­gin the process of shut­ting down for the win­ter and shed­ding leaves is day length but weather con­di­tions through the sum­mer and early au­tumn af­fect the rate of leaf loss and in­ten­sity of colour.”

The char­ity cares for more than 10 mil­lion trees and looks af­ter one of the largest pop­u­la­tions of an­cient and vet­eran trees in the world.

Some of its most spec­tac­u­lar au­tumn dis­plays can be seen at Stour­head in Wilt­shire – home to the UK’S tallest oak tree and vet­eran trees in­clud­ing beech, holly and lime.

Sh­effield Park in East Sus­sex – renowned for rare trees in­clud­ing maple, tu­pelo and swamp cy­press – and Speke Hall, Mersey­side, where vis­i­tors can see the daz­zling yel­lows of the av­enue of lime trees, are also good op­tions.

Tom Hill, who looks af­ter Winkworth Ar­bore­tum in Sur­rey, said: “We’re just start­ing to see some of the maple trees start to turn – from greens to reds and or­anges. And, judg­ing by how the weather had been over the past few weeks I’d ex­pect our au­tumn colour to be at its peak in mid to late Oc­to­ber.”

While the coun­try was bat­tered with rain at the week­end and more is ex­pected, the worst could be over.

Bon­nie Di­a­mond, a Met Of­fice me­te­o­rol­o­gist, said: “This week will stay un­set­tled with show­ers or spells of rain for most, though con­di­tions aren’t ex­pected to be as im­pact­ful as the week­end. The fol­low­ing week it is ex­pected to turn drier and more set­tled, with spells of fine weather be­tween bands of rain.”

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