Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Broadleaved Woodland

Woodland - Matthew Marshall
Broadleaved woodland is the end point of the natural succession process. Open grasslands can become covered in scrub such as hawthorn, bramble and hazel, which is slowly succeeded by slower growing tree species such as oak. The varied structure of many broadleaved woodlands has been lost for a number of reasons. Lack of management has reduced the structural diversity of woodlands resulting in high forest habitat, and native broadleaved woodlands have been re-planted with faster growing conifers for a quicker crop.

Woodland management

Management should always concentrate on creating a mosaic of habitats, leaving some areas to mature into high forest and managing other areas in rotation: 
Coppicing - Rob Walton
•  Removed conifers should be replaced with local broadleaved species such as oak and ash with an understorey of hazel, holly and hawthorn. Avoid non-native species, particularly invasive species such as rhododendron which can take over woodlands. Areas left unplanted will allow the understorey to regenerate if there are some native seeds surviving in the soil. Stagger conifer removal, as exposing all of the ground may lead to soil burn. A felling license may be required from the Forestry Commission, and their advice should be sought.
• Wide rides and glades will encourage wildlife into woodlands, particularly butterflies like the pearl bordered fritillary which prefer damp woodlands and wet meadows. This species has declined as woodland has been neglected and rides have become overgrown. Creating bays along woodland tracks and irregular edges to woodlands lets more light into the forest, allowing wild flowers and shrubs to flourish. Insects will thrive in these areas and are eaten by a large variety of birds and bats.
• Coppice rotations are an old method of harvesting and regenerating woodland. Coppicing - cutting tree trunks at their base - encourages new growth in future years and can enable a single tree to live for hundreds of years. Coppicing is done in rotation where different areas of the woodland are cut each year and then left to re-grow. The length of time for re-growth depends on the species, but it may take up to seven years for a hazel to produce nuts after it has been coppiced. Enough time should be left between coppice stands so that there are always trees producing berries or nuts which are eaten by many woodland animals.
• Fencing livestock out of woodland is very important to minimise the impact of grazing on the woodland understorey and disturbance to woodland flowers like yellow archangel, bluebell and wild garlic.
• Standing dead wood is an important and rare habitat for insects, birds and fungi. Dead trees should be left standing unless they form an immediate threat like overhanging a path.
• Deer are a natural part of our woodlands, but high numbers can cause serious damage to tree regeneration. They will also limit the number of woodland flowers. This should be taken into account before any woodland work is carried out and either deer fencing or control may be required.

Broadleaved woodland species


Oak is a slow developing species which forms part of the canopy of some woodland. It has a very recognisable leaf as well as its fruit, the acorn. There are two species native to the UK, English oak and sessile oak.

Pedunculate Oak


Ash is an early coloniser of scrub woodland and grassland and grows at a rapid rate.

Ash tree buds - Nick Gray


Hazel is an understorey species which may close over to form a canopy under taller standard trees. It is one of the most recognisable shrubs because of its bright green leaves in spring and hazel nuts in the autumn which are enjoyed by humans as well as the hazel dormouse.


Wild Garlic

Wild garlic or ramsons is a strong smelling member of the onion family. The leaves are edible and taste of garlic, hence its common name. It has delicate white flowers between April and May. Both bluebells and wild garlic can cover the ground in swathes of flowers, but they rarely grow intermingled.

Ransoms at Long Wood - CJ


The bluebell is one of the most characteristic woodland flowers. It flowers between April and June before the canopy trees open their leaves. The non-native Spanish bluebell is often sold in garden centres. It is much larger than our native bluebell and can interbreed which is affecting the distinctiveness of our native species.

Bluebells and Woodruff - Matthew Marshall