A year in the life of a tree

Judith Garforth, 03/10/2019

There are many ‘events’ in a year in the life of a tree. At this time of year, the green leaves of deciduous trees are just starting to tint and their seeds and fruits are ripening. Later in the autumn the leaves change colour to gold and brown and fall to the ground. By mid-winter the trees will be completely bare and we’ll all be looking forward to the first glimpse of green in the spring when the buds open and the leaves and flowers start to grow again.

Whilst we’re all familiar with these cyclical events, and they’re often used to symbolise the changing seasons, we’re less familiar with their exact timings and what causes them. We don’t yet fully understand how these timings alter with our changing climate and what effect this may have on other wildlife.

The Grantham Oak

This year, the Woodland Trust has decided to follow and document a year in the life of a single tree, and we’d like you to do the same. We’ve chosen ‘The Grantham Oak’. It’s a tree many members of staff pass on the way to work so we can check it regularly. We’ll be looking out for all of the following events:

First autumn tinting

Full autumn tinting

First ripe fruit

First leaves falling

Bare tree


First leaf

First flowering

We’ll note the date of each seasonal event as soon as it happens and we’ll record these dates on the Nature’s Calendar website. They go straight into our database which is used by scientists to find out how weather and climate affects timings in nature.


We started monitoring the Grantham Oak in late summer when the tree was covered in its full size green leaves. It's a very majestic tree and really stands out from it's neighbours; you can't miss it when you drive or walk down the road.

The Grantham Oak (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson)

The Grantham Oak with green summer leaves 29/08/19 (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson)


First autumn tinting - 01/10/19

When you look carefully at the branches the first leaves are just starting to turn yellow and brown, although the tree as a whole still looks pretty green.

First leaves falling - 01/10/19

With all the wet and windy weather we've had over the last few days, some leaves have fallen to the ground. It's really starting to feel like autumn.


First autumn tinting 01/10/19 (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson)

First leaves falling 01/10/19 (Photo: Charlotte Pattinson)

We’ll be looking out for ripe acorns falling to the floor next and assessing how many acorns the tree has this year too. We’ll keep this blog updated with new photos as we spot each event happening.

Choose your tree

Can you follow a year in the life of a tree for Nature’s Calendar too? It doesn’t have to be an oak tree. You can choose from lots of trees and shrubs, and you can start following the tree at any time of the year too. Simply choose a mature tree (not a sapling) and visit it regularly (ideally once a week). When you notice a seasonal event happen to your tree, don't forget to record the date on the Nature's Calendar website!

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Join thousands of other people and let us know what's happening to wildlife near you.

Have you seen your first butterfly or swallow of the spring? Is it a good year for wild autumn fruits? Take part in Nature's Calendar and help scientists to monitor the effects of climate change on wildlife.

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