Extreme weather affecting autumn leaves spectacular, warns National Trust

autumn colour and the lake at sheffield park and garden, east sussex
Extreme weather affecting autumn leavesThe National Trust

Britain's dazzling displays of autumn colour could be reversed if trees continue to face scorching summers, the National Trust has warned.

While some signs of autumn have appeared early, this year's record-breaking temperatures, drought and prolonged periods of hot weather has put trees under immense stress — and some are struggling to survive. In fact, many confused trees dropped their browns leaves in August due to simply not having enough water.

We are yet to see what the drought and high temperatures could mean for this year's autumn colour, however the conservation charity says that some trees are expected to turn golden brown and yellow in a 'unique' display.

"Due to the leaf drop that has already occurred in isolated areas this year's autumn colour will be reduced due to the simple reason that many trees have already lost a lot of their leaves due to the hot summer," Pamela Smith, Senior National Gardens and Parks Consultant at the National Trust, says.

Photo credit: The National Trust
Photo credit: The National Trust

"Trees suffering due to drought don't have the resources to sustain their size, so often the impact is a smaller leaf canopy."

Autumn colour typically only starts to show once temperatures start to get cooler overnight, but remains above freezing. If you're keen to embrace the beautiful hues of the new season, the Trust says we need both sunshine and rainfall to build up sugars in the leaves.

Pamela adds: "Ideally over the next two weeks we need sunshine, rain, no strong winds and to see temperatures starting to dip. We'll get the first indications of how good this year's autumn colour will be in the north, as typically temperatures start to drop here first, as the phenomenon spreads north to south across the country."

Photo credit: ANDREW BUTLER
Photo credit: ANDREW BUTLER

As well as this, it appears to be a good year for nuts and berries, with many trees having fruited earlier than normal. Acorns, beech masts, rowan berries and elderberries are all in abundance due to trees and shrubs being under stress.

"We're always paying attention to the differences each year brings, but this year particularly will give us the opportunity to watch and learn – to capture information which can better help us with helping to ensure any new planting is more resilient to changes to weather patterns and rising temperatures and aid our planning in years to come."

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