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First Autumn Colours

This article was first published on 10 Mar 2011.

First Autumn Colour

First Autumn Colour

With Mother Nature playing ball a bit roughly lately, it does us good to stand back, take a deep breath, and admire her more gentle side as autumn becomes apparent.

Sugar High

I first sense the changing season when wafts of candyfloss float on the air. As the leaves of katsura, Cercidiphyllum japonicum, change colour and drift to the ground, they release a sweet smelling chemical called maltol, (which incidentally is used as the flavour enhancer E 636). The drier the summer, the earlier they seem to fall as the bright green, heart shaped leaves turn different shades of pink, yellow and even into deep purple.

Crimson Charm

Sporting brighter colours is the ironwood, Parrotia persica. From Iran, the lustrous dark green foliage turns to deep yellow, orange or scarlet. Once the leaves have vibrantly littered the ground the smooth, grey mottled with white, flaking bark is featured.

Subtle Yellow

The third tree which is early to colour up is the horse chestnut, Aesculus hippocastanum. Its magnificent spreading branches become the focus as they discard the more delicately hued yellow-orange foliage.

Take time to appreciate the changing kaleidoscope of colour around you as trees prepare for the cooler temperatures ahead.

Robyn Freeth is a plant collection curator at Dunedin Botanic Garden.