Fall colours gone with the rain

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Norway is supposed to be ablaze with fall colours at this time of year, but the landscape in both the mountains and lower-lying areas is decidedly dreary. Months of rain are to blame, because the wet weather gave rise to a fungus that’s hit birch trees all the way north to Finnmark.

Fall colours are noticeably absent in many areas of Norway, like here in Sørkedalen where some trees have gone from green to grey. PHOTO: Views and News

Not only did the heavy rains spoil the summer for many Norwegians and tourists alike, the wet weather is also spoiling one of the natural high points of the autumn season. Birch trees that normally turn from green to yellow to gold and orange went straight from green to grey and brown as early as mid- to late August, and then lost their leaves entirely.

In Hadeland, for example, and many areas of the forests (marka) that surround Oslo, birch trees were already bare two weeks ago. Many owners of holiday cabins (hytter) in the hills were surprised to head up for a late-summer or early fall weekend and find their yards covered with dead, brown leaves, and their trees looking like it was already mid-November.

“In large areas the leaves are gone, and we won’t get the usual festival of colours in the mountains,” Wenche Talsø, of research firm Bioforsk, confirmed to newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday.

This is how the forests normally look in early September. PHOTO: Views and News

Talsø told Aftenposten that the wet summer was “perfect” for a rustsopp (fungus) that attacks the birch trees’ leaf structure. The fungus causes the leaves to turn grey and brown and then fall off.

She said the fungus has been “very active” this year and that she’s received reports of bare birch trees “way up to Finnmark. Large portions of the country have been hit.”

Portions of Sweden have, too, and one consultant for the Norwegian hunting and fishing association Norges jeger- og fiskerforbund said trees are bare “especially in Østlandet and inland towards the Swedish border.” He was unsure whether the bare trees will affect the annual grouse (rype) hunting season now underway, in case the birds are disturbed by the lack of leaves on trees where they perch.

Operators of mountain hotels hoping to attract autumn tourists can’t promote the same fall colours as usual, although some trees and bushes are still taking on brilliant colors because they’re unaffected by the fungus.

Talgø could offer some additional consolation as well: Rustsopp has no long-term, serious consequences.

“Apart from the feeling that autumn came early many places, and that colours won’t be like they normally are, the fungus attack doesn’t kill the trees,” she said. “They’ll be healthy again in the spring.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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