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01/03/2021

Dull summer could extend the party for the leaf-peepers

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The UK has not had much of a summer and with the less than glorious

weather experienced and September looming, it’s almost autumn already!

But how much does the weather affect when autumn happens? Does a wet
summer affect the displays of autumnal colours that we all love to see?
And is it really possible to predict when leaves will start to change
colour?

Westonbirt Arboretum’s Acer Glade, October 2011. Credit

Rob Cousins/ Westonbirt Arboretum. 

Simon Toomer, the Forestry Commission’s Director at Westonbirt, The
National Arboretum in Gloucestershire explains:

“Autumn’s foliage displays are certainly affected by the weather. The
intensity and longevity of colour varies from one year to the next.
Luckily, different conditions suit different plants and each year new,
and sometimes surprising trees will provide the star turn.

“This year we could see prolonged autumn colour well into November due
to the mild, damp weather conditions.

“Cool, damp years can also bring out stronger tones in some species. If
you are lucky enough to live near examples of Persian ironwood or
katsura, look out for their respective rich purple or pink tones. Native
trees, such as the beech, may also provide richer golden tones this
season.

“Predicting when autumn will fall and what type of colour the leaves of
the trees will turn is always an entertaining task. Trying to guess the
timing and colouring of trees in autumn is something that we indulge in
every year at Westonbirt. It’s good fun, but nature is a mysterious
thing and even with increased scientific and plant knowledge, we can get
it wrong. Weather can also intervene, with a harsh storm or severe frost
putting the end to many a great autumn show.”

With a number of fantastic forest sites displaying the sensory delights
of autumn, Forestry Commission England has named its top ten places to
visit. From the ‘electric light bulb’ yellow of autumn leaves at
Westonbirt to the amazing view from the Tree Top Way at Salcey Forest,
we have something for everyone this autumn. The best leaf-peeping spots
include:

1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire
2. Friston Forest in East Sussex
3. Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent
4. The Wye Valley in the Forest of Dean
5. Salcey Forest, near Northampton
6. Maulden Woods in Bedfordshire
7. Grizedale Forest, North West England
8. Castle Neroche near Taunton, Somerset
9. Bolderwood, New Forest
10. Mendip sites

This year, members of the public can also follow how quickly our
woodlands are changing colour and help us keep this up to date. Using
the Forestry Commission’s interactive online autumn colour map it’s easy
to find the best colour near you, as each wood is rated from green to
golden. www.forestry.gov.uk/autumn

And join in by sharing your photos of autumnal colours near to you on
our Facebook pages for Westonbirt Arboretum or Forestry Commission Woods
and Forests.

Simon Toomer has worked at the Forestry Commission’s Westonbirt

Arboretum for more than 12 years and was appointed Arboretum Director in
2009. He trained in environmental biology and forestry.

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is based near Tetbury in
Gloucestershire. It is managed by the Forestry Commission and is
renowned worldwide for the autumnal colours of its tree and shrub
collection. Home to the National Japanese Maple Collection, the
arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains 16,000 specimens.
Visit www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt.

The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible
for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of
woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the
environment. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk

Leaf peeping is an informal term, commonly used in the United
States, for people who travel to view and photograph the fall foliage in
areas where foliage changes colours, particularly New England.

Source: Westonbirt – The National Arboretum

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