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24 Mar 2021

Where to see autumn leaves

Sydney is not a place you automatically think of when it comes to spectacular autumn leaves. The deciduous trees that produce the autumn colour start the process as temperatures start to cool down April.

As the trees prepare for a rest period in winter, nutrients in the leaves is removed and used as a reserve energy source. The leaves also stop the process of photosynthesis. With no need to produce energy the green pigments are removed leaving behind only waste products the tree no longer needs.

Its fortunate for us that these so-called waste products are the vibrant colours we all love to see in autumn foliage. With Sydney’s very mild autumn and winters, many of the most spectacular deciduous trees don’t grow well but there are still many wonderful places to see a patchwork of autumn colour.

Here at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney we have a variety of trees that put on a spectacular display. My personal favourite is the Ginkgo with its spectacular golden autumn colour. These ancient and tough trees grow very well in Sydney.

One thing to note with Gingko is that they have male and female trees. The female trees produce fruit which has an unpleasant smell, so most people try to grow male trees.

The HSBC Oriental Garden has a collection of quite a few maples which put on a reliable display of autumn colour. 

Gingko Tree

Visitors to Sydney can enjoy magnificent Sweet Gums (Liquidambars) at Centennial Parklands in eastern Sydney. I would recommend visiting any time from mid-April to late May where you can also see Tulip trees (Liriodendron) with their four-lobed leaves turn the most incredible golden yellow colour.

Sydney’s Northern suburbs experience slight cooler temperatures than the costal suburbs and have wonderful autumn colours. Suburbs like Pymble and Turramurra are transformed by a range of picture perfect deciduous trees dominated by the ever-reliable Sweet Gums.

Sweet Gum Tree (Liquidambars)

With its cool climate the Blue Mountains are one of the best places in New South Wales to see autumn colour the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah is a must-see for of visitors from April to May with a range of trees from cool temperate regions around the world.

Another garden I try to visit is the Albury Botanic Garden in southern NSW with is perfect climate for deciduous trees you can walk through colourful carpets of fallen leaves as the season cools in preparation for winter. 

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah

One of the few deciduous Australian native trees is the Australian red cedar (Toona ciliata). This large rainforest tree doesn’t have the spectacular autumn colour of northern hemisphere deciduous trees but it does produce beautiful red foliage in Spring. Australia has other native deciduous trees such as Ficus virens displaying bright yellow leaves in October or November in Sydney.

For plant lovers visiting Sydney there is always something of interest regardless of the time of year. With our humid subtropical climate Sydney gardeners can grow a huge range of plants The Sydney basin is one of the worlds greatest regions for plant diversity. So, when visiting a bush walk in one of our many national parks, it is a botanical journey through pristine natural areas on the doorstep of the city. I would also recommend a visit to the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan where you can enjoy unique plants from all over Australia.

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