Autumn 2010, a golden vintage

It almost appears too splendid to be true, with a sunburst of colours capped by burnished gold – but just in case you haven't been getting out much, this is what Britain's autumn foliage looks like, right now.

The long drought of the spring, and the wet and cool of the late summer that followed, have combined to produce an outstanding autumn leaf display, in a palette which ranges from pale yellow through orange to red and golden-brown. Not to mention the green which is still showing and can be seen in this remarkable tunnel of colour, photographed in Clifton, Bristol.

The sharp climatic shift between two periods, such as we witnessed this year, intensifies the process of leaf ageing and dying and produces the best autumnal shows, said Dr Nigel Taylor, Curator of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Dr Taylor himself is presiding over an exceptional parade of colours in south-west London, featuring some of the best autumn-showing trees from all over the world, ranging from liquidambars, hickories and tupelo trees from the USA, to Asiatic maples from Japan.

In particular the Liquidambar styraciflua trees, or American sweetgums, from the north-eastern USA, are "looking spectacular all along the Broadwalk," Dr Taylor said, adding: "They're in all shades from green, orange and red, to deep, deep purple."

The autumn colours of trees are produced when chlorophyll, the bright green pigment which plants use for photosynthesis – the process of making their food with the energy of the sun – ceases to be dominant at the end of the growing season, and other natural pigments present in the leaves begin to show themselves, such as carotenoids. These produce the yellows, oranges and browns of the autumn leaves. Another set of pigments, compounds known as anthocyanins, are manufactured at the end of the summer and these produce the deeper colours, the fiery red, the bronzes and the purples.

Anthocyanins are present in about 10 per cent of trees across the northern hemisphere as a whole, but in New England, perhaps the world's most famous location for autumn foliage, where tourists who go to admire are known as "leaf peepers", they are present in as much as 70 per cent of species.

Britain cannot compete with Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire, but as the photo shows, we produce autumn spectacles of our own.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor