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Autumn fruits confirm an old wive's tale?

Pyracantha,berries,fruits. Image © (all rights reserved) People often say that an autumn in which branches are weighed down with fruits and berries is a sign, a sign of a hard winter ahead. It's one of those old wive's tales that many people embrace, but those of us with a scientific bent tend to refute. And, in this case, of course, it's is nonsense. How does a pyracantha (left, click to enlarge) know that it’s going to be unusually cold six months after flowering?

No, a fruitful autumn is a sign of a sunny and frost free spring earlier in the year. And as I’ve been driving around the south of England this last two weeks, it’s been obvious that again spring blossoms were undamaged by frost, that pollinators were plentiful and that the mix of sun and rain this autumn has ensured that the crop is indeed prolific.

In hedgerows, the blackberries are weighing down the branches (right, click to enlarge);  Blackberry,blackberries,Rubus,fruticosus,berries,fruits. Image © (all rights reserved) the scarlet hawthorn berries sparkle in the sun; the misty blue sloes line the branches of the blackthorns. Seedling crab apples and eating apples shine bright along the motorway.

In gardens, the pyracanthas are so crowded with berries - scarlet, orange and yellow – that the branches bend under the weight. But that’s not all due to the spring weather. Recently introduced disease-resistant varieties, like those in the Saphyr Series, are now much more widespread so good crops of fruits are more likely, even in bad years.

Quince,Cydonia,fruits. Image © (all rights reserved) Apples, plums, soft fruit, even the enormous quinces I spotted in a suburban front garden (left, click to enlarge). Quite a crop. But.

An email from a Latvian friend here in Northamptonshire reads: “Just read the first prognosis on a Latvian site from Polish meteorologists about the forthcoming winter. They argue that due to the significant weakening of the Gulf Stream the arctic air mass is going to penetrate into Europe for a prolonged period and produce one of the coldest winters ever. Time to open a ski shop!”

So, as it turns out, this abundance seems perfectly timed to help the birds through an unusually icy winter. Are we sure that nature doesn’t know more than we do?!