Instead of bright green, many gardens, parks, and woods sport hues of yellow to brown. The leaves pile up at the feet of the trees. The UK has entered a 'false autumn' after a hot, dry summer.
The effect of almost a year of historically low rainfall, compounded by a month of July marked by record temperatures, is very striking on the streets of England, including the streets of London which are overcast in the middle of August of dead leaves.
“Due to the heat wave, we are experiencing what is called a 'false autumn'. Leaves are changing color and falling to the ground prematurely as trees go into survival mode due to drought,” the Horniman Museum and Gardens, a museum and park located in the South London.
This early fall is due to the fact that the trees lose their leaves to try to retain moisture.
While old trees with deep roots can withstand this episode, younger ones are more vulnerable.
“Trees secrete hormones which they use in autumn to retract and ensure their survival,” explained Rosie Walker, of the charity Woodland Trust. “They will continue like this for a few years, but it will start to affect our trees if we are not very careful,” she told the BBC.
Temperatures have exceeded 40 degrees for the first time in the UK in July, the driest month on record for many parts of southern and eastern England. Before, winter and spring were the least rainy since the drought of 1976.
Fauna “not adapted”
The situation, attributed to climate change, has prompted authorities to ban the use of garden hoses to save water in some areas.
Like most gardens in the capital , in Kensington Park, which forms with Hyde Park one of the great “green lungs” of London, the dead leaves crunch under the footsteps of tourists, while geese, ducks and other birds peck a grass with the aspect of worn doormat.
In the groves, fruit appeared earlier than expected, such as wild blackberries, usually ready to eat in the fall, but some of which were already ripe in late June, reports the Woodland Trust.
D 'other berries and nuts have ripened prematurely, and therefore risk being depleted sooner, leaving some animals like dormice without sufficient pantries this fall.
“The climate crisis brings with it seasonal weather patterns that our wildlife are simply not adapted to,” said Steve Hussey, of the Devon Wildlife Trust in south-west England.
“Our long, hot summer and false autumn will impact many species into the true autumn months and beyond,” he warned.
For her part, Leigh Hunt, adviser to the Royal Horticultural Society, notes that a similar situation occurred during long periods of drought in 2006-2007 and just before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“C is particularly severe this year,” he told Times Radio on Wednesday. “But what I notice is that these events seem to be happening more frequently.”
“It's consistent with climate change: hotter, drier summers, and more erratic rainfall Mr Leigh observed.
And “it is happening much faster than in previous generations”, he added, predicting that these weather conditions would eventually change the landscapes of the United Kingdom. Plain, from gardens to parks to woods.