Westonbirt arboretum predicts spectacular show of autumn colour
11:07am Monday 7th October 2013 in Latest News
Experts at the Forestry Commission’s National Arboretum at Westonbirt are predicting a riot of leaf colour alongside the spectacular show of forest fruits this autumn.
A year with an ideal mix of sunshine and rain has meant a great growing season for the nation’s trees, providing perfect conditions for the sugars to build up in the leaves that help them change colour and develop their vibrant autumn hues.
Those hoping to catch the magnificent maples of The National Arboretum at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire, should visit between the third week of October and the first week of November.
During this time the Forestry Commission predicts trees will be at their spectacular peak, displaying a wave of colour that will develop slowly and then fade as the winds and frosts remove the last leaves.
Simon Toomer, the Forestry Commission’s Director at Westonbirt Arboretum, said: “It’s been a fantastic year for our trees, with a balance of warm sunny conditions coupled with a fair amount of rainfall helping photosynthesis and growth.
“Because it was such a wet summer last year, trees began this summer with plenty of water and have not dried out too much despite the summer heat. This recipe of plenty of sunshine and rain in equal measure means we can expect a magnificent array of colour.
“Our forests are very diverse; they have different altitudes, climates and soil conditions which contribute to the rich variety of tree species and colour in the forests and trees.
“At the beginning of October you’ll be able to see the early waves of colour emerging and we’re predicting that it’ll reach its peak by the third week in October, through to the first week of November.
“There’s only a very short window to see these beautiful changes occurring so we’re encouraging people to get out and see what the forests and trees have on offer this autumn.”
Leaves starting to change colour first include some of Britain’s native species such as common spindle, dog wood and wild cherry. In forests and arboretums where a greater variety of exotic trees can be seen, stars of the autumn show include reds oaks, full moon maples and Persian ironwood. Japanese maples, beech, oak and field maples will change later.
Visitors this autumn are also in for a spectacular show of forest fruits and might even get to spot foraging wildlife, as the season is looking like a bumper year for the fruits and seeds of many trees and shrubs.
Indications are that ash, English oak, sweet chestnut, beech, hawthorn, hornbeam and small-leaved lime trees will produce large crops, laden with seeds, fruits and nuts, all because of one of nature’s mysterious events known as ‘masting’.
Bumper seed years are known as ‘mast years’; a natural phenomenon where some tree species produce very large crops of seeds in some years, compared to almost none in others.
Matthew Parratt, a scientist at Forest Research, the research agency of the Forestry Commission, said: “Mast years are a great opportunity to experience nature at its best and with so much food around you’re likely to spot wildlife around the trees, so it’s a prime time to get out with the family and explore our woodland.”
The Forestry Commission’s website includes a spotter’s guide to trees and their fruits, as well as links to family activities, craft ideas, events and guided walks across the country. Visit www.forestry.gov.uk/autumn for details.
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