WITH summer in full swing, Scotland's trees are normally blooming and green at this time of year.
But on the west coast of Scotland, trees – including horse chestnut, birch and rowan – are as bare as in late autumn, with leaves turning brown and dropping to the ground.
Last summer, the foliage burst to life with beautiful new leaves covering the branches.
But the recent rain and high winds have scorched many trees on the west coast, leaving them brown and looking unhealthy.
Trees in seaside towns such as Kilbirnie, Largs and Skelmorlie have all been affected by the recent storms.
The Forestry Commission Scotland said the scorching phenomenon had been caused by last month’s exceptionally strong winds combining with the salt-laden sea air.
Many broadleaved trees have been affected, as well as larch pine and other conifers.
Yesterday experts from Forestry Commission Scotland moved to allay public concerns over the “browning” of many trees, after receiving a large number of calls.
Hugh Clayden, the commission’s tree health policy adviser, explained that, although the trees may look unhealthy, it is hoped “that most will recover over time”.
He said: “We’ve had a number of calls from worried members of the public who have seen large areas of trees turning brown for no apparent reason.
“Their first thought is that the trees are in bad health due to disease.
“We are very grateful for these calls, but we are quite sure that what is being reported here is usually a result of the recent very strong winds coupled with salt-laden air on the coast.”
Mr Clayden, added: “Basically the trees’ delicate new leaves and needles have been dried out as well as physically damaged by the exceptional winds.
“We will examine trees to see if buds and twigs are still alive. If they are, recovery should take place this year and next. If not, some die-back of branches is likely to occur – although we would still expect most trees to recover.”
A spokesman for North Ayrshire Council said: “Strong winds, possibly carrying salt or even sand, have burned foliage up and down the west coast. There is nothing that can be done to address this and we simply have to wait for nature to take its course.”
The high winds brought down around 12 trees at the National Trust for Scotland-managed Culzean Castle and Country Park, which sits on the South Ayrshire coastline.
Head forester Ian Cornelius, who has worked on the estate for 22 years, said: “There’s a bit of wind damage on the leaf, the beeches particularly are turning brown prematurely. It’s the dry wind that does it. It’s almost like frostbite. The trees will recover from it next year, I would hope.
“There’s an awful lot less foliage on the ash trees, but ash sometimes does that from year to year. We had an early flush because of the good spring and then we had that bad weather and a cold wind and it hit everything quite hard.”
VisitScotland said the visual impact of an early autumnal landscape would not disappoint tourists, who expect to experience four seasons in one day.
A spokesman said: “Scotland’s climate is known for being rather unpredictable but our Visitor Experience Survey shows that people do not come here for the weather but for many other reasons including our history and culture, world renowned hospitality, and fantastic scenery.”
Last month, The Herald reported how experts feared the breeding season of Scotland’s bird population had been dealt a lasting blow by the storms that battered the country.
RSPB Scotland said there were reports of nests being damaged by the rain and high winds which wreaked havoc in May.
The number of young birds being cared for by Scottish SPCA’s Wildlife Rescue Centre, meanwhile, has tripled since a storm on May 23, with the charity’s centre in Fife looking after more than 300 fledglings.