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Wet summer could yield rich autumnal colours

Published 04/09/2015

The wet, mild summer could lead to a spectacular autumnal display
The wet, mild summer could lead to a spectacular autumnal display

The typically mixed British summer this year could mean a rich display of autumn colour, experts have said.

But with the last two years recording bumper crops of fruit and berries, this autumn is likely to be less plentiful in the hedgerows and countryside.

The Woodland Trust's Nature's Calendar, in which members of the public record signs of the changing seasons, has seen 14 out of 16 fruiting crops record their best years since 2001 in 2014 or 2013.

Early results from this year show plants such as bramble, elder and hawthorn are not fruiting as well as they did last year, though the Woodland Trust says there is likely to be variation with good and poor crops recorded in different local areas.

Dr Kate Lewthwaite, the Woodland Trust's citizen science manager, said: "Having had such bountiful crops in the last two years we'd expect to see a drop in quality this autumn and early indications on our Nature's Calendar survey seem to back this up.

"This doesn't mean that people won't be able to make any fruit crumble though!"

She also called for more people to take part in the survey in the autumn, as they received fewer records than in spring and the data was important for helping scientists better understand how trees and other species respond to climate change.

Though trees may not be producing as much fruit as in previous years, the Forestry Commission is predicting that it will be a good year for autumn colours as a result of the weather.

Wet conditions with periods of heavy rain interspersed with some warm sunny days will have allowed trees to produce plenty of the sugars that create the vivid reds, oranges and yellows when they are withdrawn from the leaves into the trees in autumn.

While the best of the display will be in mid-to-late-October, the seasonal colouring could start soon and could stretch well into November due to the mild, wet conditions, the commission said.

Andrew Smith, the Forestry Commission's director at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, said: "This year should be good for producing autumnal colour as, although it's been quite warm, it has also been wet with periods of heavy rain interspersed by some really warm, sunny days.

"That has meant a great growing season for trees, allowing them to build up plenty of sugars in their leaves.

"It is these sugars that produce the rich autumnal colours when they are absorbed back into the tree to help them survive winter.

"This year we predict that whilst autumn colours may start soon, they will be best in mid-to-late October.

"However, we anticipate prolonged autumn colour well into November due to the mild, damp weather conditions."

But nature could put a stop to that with a harsh storm or a severe frost, which would curtail the display, he added.

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