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An autumn of two halves

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Westonbirt autumn colour credit James Moore

A curious season for autumn colour is being observed by the Forestry Commission at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum in Gloucestershire.

Experts at the arboretum are witnessing a two-phased appearance of colour, brought on by the unusual weather experienced this year.

Whilst the dry spring brought on an early change in some trees thought to be ‘stressed’ through drought, the warm start to October has meant many other specimens have stayed green for longer.

The warm weather has delayed the cold snap which spurs on the chemical change required to produce autumnal reds, oranges and yellows. Colder nights are thought to be more conducive to bringing on good autumn colour.

Simon Toomer, Westonbirt Arboretum Director commented:

“What began as an early show of autumn colour at the end of August, slowed during September and the start of October when the warmer weather re-appeared.

“This has meant that many of Westonbirt’s famous Japanese maples stayed green for longer than in previous years. However, the recent colder nights have speeded things up and we’re now seeing an autumn colour display we are much more used to.”

Autumn hotspots for colour include the National Japanese Maple Collection and Rotary Glade in Silk Wood, and Acer Glade in the Old Arboretum. Visitors can follow the appearance of autumn colour on Westonbirt Arboretum’s colour watch blog. Find out more at


  1. Westonbirt, The National Arboretum is part of the Forestry Commission estate and is renowned worldwide for its tree and shrub collection. Home to the National Japanese Maple (Acer) collection, The National Arboretum covers 243 hectares (600 acres) and contains 16,000 specimens. Visitor numbers are 350,000 a year, with a membership of over 25,000. Westonbirt Arboretum was established in the 1850s by wealthy landowner Robert Holford, and later developed by his son George Holford.  Unlike many arboretums, Westonbirt is laid out according to aesthetic appeal rather than scientific or geographical criteria. Westonbirt’s website is

  2. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. Further information at

  3. The Friends of Westonbirt Arboretum was formed in 1985. The charity’s objects are to support The National Arboretum in promoting public understanding of the crucial role of trees to the environment and society. It is funded by membership receipts from over 25,000 members, other fundraising, and the use of the Great Oak Hall for events and activities. More information at  

Katrina Podlewska, Communications Manager, Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, on 01666 881 207 or email: