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
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.”