A season of transition, Autumn in Tasmania extends from 1st March through to 31st May, and generally weather patterns are more settled, with average temperatures varying from as low as 5°C overnight to an average 14°C daytime, though quite often we have days reaching a pleasant 18° to 22°C.
Autumn In Tasmania: Season of the Senses
A season of the ‘senses’ in Tasmania, Autumn is the time of fresh harvests, beautiful days of clear autumn light which bring a clarity to the subtle hues of our coastlines and a ‘magic’ is created in our wilderness as vivid colours come to life. Autumn is also the season where ‘twilight’ is much more pronounced in Tasmania, that ‘golden hour’ just before sundown, when the sun is low on the horizon creating a rich glow to be cast across the countryside, turning all a golden amber just before darkness descends.
Though much of our Tasmanian landscape blazes with colour during Autumn, we give thanks to our history for this, as our ancestors, convicts and free settlers brought with them on sailing ships, seed from the huge deciduous trees of their homelands in the hope of making their new homeland, then known as the convict colony of Van Diemen’s Land, a little like the one they left behind. As settlement took place, botanists also came to explore the ecology of this newfound wilderness, to test what would grow here under what were considered harsh conditions.
From England, Ireland and Europe we gained the mighty Oak, the Ash and the Elm trees, the sheer beauty of which can be seen in our historic towns of Westbury, Hagley, Richmond and Ross, to name but a few. They also brought with them seed from the Hawthorn, we see as hedges which line our country roads, the beautiful cool willows which line our riverbanks, all of which today put on a myriad Autumn display of either vibrant autumn leaves, rich red berries or glowing pink/orange branch tips. And from the North Americas we gained the tall, sweeping Lombardy Poplar, it’s beauty in Autumn best seen upon entering Latrobe via Spreyton. Latrobe, the home of Bell’s Parade, a once thriving major port in the mid to late 1800’s, now a beautiful park on the banks of the Mersey River, where the sheer magnificence of Ash and Elm trees over 100 years old, can be seen in their Autumn glory.
Rural Autumn in Tasmania
As one travels through the rural, farming countryside, signs of Autumn become a patchwork of rich golden shades of yellow turning to greens, after winter fodder for livestock has been harvested and the early autumn rains replenish the fields, and of rich red/browns where the rich, fertile basalt soils are being freshly turned in preparation for winter crops.
No autumn experience in Tasmania is complete without a visit to our rainforests, whether it be on the rugged West Coast, The Tarkine in the far north-west or down south in Mt Field National Park. Cool night time temperatures and warmer days bring a feeling of ‘magic’…the soft mosses underfoot swell and grow rapidly as they draw in the moisture, becoming soft, damp sponges underfoot. The greens in the canopy of the huge myrtles overhead, the dogwoods and the tree ferns become deep, rich and vibrant. Feeding from the fallen leaf mulch, the fallen dead trees and decaying undergrowth, mosses in every conceivable shade of green and lichens in rich whites, yellows and oranges, begin to spread rapidly, and the fungi begins to burst forth, shades and hues of every colour.
We have a purely endemic experience which goes almost unnoticed, only ever seen in Tasmania: ’the turning of the fagus’.
Tasmania can lay claim to only one native deciduous tree, Deciduous beech (Nothofagus gunnii), or fagus as it is best-known. The Deciduous Beech is a direct link back to the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana. Fossil records found at Cethana in northern Tasmania date back 35 million years to the early Oligocene period. A small tree, usually growing to 2 metres or less, and found only in places many would call inhospitable. Known also by European Settlers as ‘tanglefoot’, it can be the bane of a bushwalker getting caught in it’s twisted, ground hugging branches. But this usually insignificant tree is Australia’s only winter-deciduous tree, and can be found nowhere else in the world. The autumn display it gives is a kaleidoscope of greens, yellows, oranges and browns, and generally begins to occur around ANZAC day and only lasts two to three weeks.
Scientists, botanists, naturalists, conservationists and bushwalkers the world over have been known to make an annual pilgrimage to Tasmania to see what is locally known as ‘the turning of the fagus’, where it can be best seen creating a fiery blaze on mountainsides at Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park or in regions of Mt Field National Park.