By Niamh Anderson
SCOTLAND is experiencing the earliest autumn in living memory as swathes of yellow and amber appear in the trees.
Experts said that in Glasgow the earliest signs of autumn foliage were spotted in late July.
The combination of harsh winter, dry spring and wet summer is believed to have brought about the early onset of autumn colours.
At the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, children were able to play with piles of dead leaves at least a month earlier than normal.
Nursery Supervisor Peter Brownless said: “Temperatures have been fluctuating quite widely and I think that’s why we’re beginning to see autumn colours earlier.
“We’ve had a very harsh winter, followed by a dry spring and a wet summer which has a lot to do with it.”
“Normally the leaves wouldn’t start to turn until the end of September but plants are very sensitive to external factors and are reflecting the climate that’s happened across the country during the summer.”
Staff at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens said they were shocked at how early autumn arrived.
One said: “I was shocked to see that one of our Turkish trees, the Persian Ironwood had started to turn yellow in the last week of July.
“Not only that, but the Acer, known as the Maple tree, had also started to turn bright red – a sight you would never normally see in the middle of summer.
“Usually we would start to see autumn a little later than the east of the country as our climate isn’t as cold on the west, but this year autumn seems to have come early all over the country,” she added.
Duncan Bryden, board member of the Cairngorms National Park Authority, said: “Visibly in the last two weeks, the Cairngorms have been more autumnal than usual.
“In the last two years, we’ve experienced very harsh winters and because we’re at such a high point in the country, we are at the forefront of climate change.
“There is no doubt that our climate is changing and once one season comes early, the others directly follow suit.”
The premature browning of the leaves could also have an effect on Scottish wildlife.
Greg Tinker of Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Birds and squirrels will have to start harvesting a lot earlier because the plants are tending to fruit earlier than they have done in the past.
“Any leaves that have turned aren’t as good for feeding caterpillars and other insects so blackbirds or other insect eating birds that are having a late brood might find that there are insufficient insects around to feed on,” he said.
“Migrating birds are leaving Scotland at the moment even though it is still late summer, but we will see them return from their travels slightly earlier next year because that is the pattern that is taking place in recent years,” he added.
To make matters worse for any Indian summer hopefuls, Scotland is rumoured to receive the tail end of Hurricane Irene by the end of the week.
The tropical storm has been battling its way across the east coast of America in recent days and is making her way here.
“One of the things about Scotland and the UK is that we get what the east coast of America gets ten days after they’ve had it.
“Once the tail end of Irene hits, we’re in for a period of wetter and windier weather than average which isn’t good for the autumn colours as they’ll get blown away before autumn is even in full swing,” he said.