After a year of extreme weather, a “unique” display of golden browns and buttery yellows could light up the UK’s trees in the coming weeks, according to a conservation charity. However, the impact of the climate emergency could threaten the show in future autumns.
Because of the summer’s extreme heat and dryness, some stressed trees shed leaves early during a “false autumn,” according to the National Trust. Still, it believes a particularly vivid October and November are on the way.
According to Pamela Smith, senior national gardens and parks consultant at the trust, the depth of color would be reduced in some places where leaves had fallen early. However, she believes the summer’s high temperatures and drought will result in unique autumn. “There may be more golden browns and yellows,” she speculated. “This year could be a one-of-a-kind display.”
There is no certainty. The condition was that trees had accumulated enough sugars in their leaves by spring to produce the vibrant colors that the UK’s growing band of “leaf peepers” enjoy. For an extra special show, the right combination of light, temperature, and lack of wind is required.
“Ideally, we need sunshine, rain, no strong winds, and temperatures to fall over the next two weeks,” Smith said. The north will provide the first indications of how good this year’s autumn color will be, as temperatures typically begin to fall here first. Although we are likely to see the entire color spectrum, this year reminds us that what we have previously taken for granted may be in jeopardy.”
According to John Deakin, the head of trees and woodlands, trees are resilient, especially the oldest ones, which have survived centuries of storms, droughts, and winter frosts.
“However, despite their potential to last millennia, trees will struggle to survive successive summers of searingly hot temperatures and insufficient rain,” he added. The damage to their vasculature and energy reserves is cumulative. It may reach crisis proportions, implying that more trees will begin to decline and die, making them more vulnerable to pests and disease.”
Head gardener Tim Parker at Stourhead, one of the most famous British gardens for its dazzling October yellows and reds, said last year was not a vintage year for autumn color in the Wiltshire garden. “It was a bit of a flash, and then everything stayed green until December – an odd one.”
He also mentioned some concerning losses this summer, such as the death of two 15-year-old dawn redwoods that may have succumbed to the extreme weather. “That was a surprise, but many trees show signs of stress and strain.”