natural woodlands of britain
natural woodlands of britain defined in 1944 yearnatural woodlands of britain - Natural Woodlands of Britain;
natural woodlands of britain - In Britain, natural woodlands are rarely found, as nearly all the land surface has been used within historical times for grazing, agriculture, or planted woodland. The rarity of our few natural woods, which owe their preservation to accidents of history and are mainly found on the poorest of soils, or in places difficult of access, adds interest as well as difficulty to their study. They also indicate what tree Species are adapted to the local soils, giving a useful guide for tree planting, as well-defined groups of trees thrive upon each soil formation. Most of these soils are somewhat extreme types, the more normal and easily cultivated ground having been enclosed for agriculture.
Woodlands of the chalk. These occur on the steeper slopes of the Downs in southern and eastern England. The dominant tree is the beech, other common species being ash, oak, whitebeam, hazel, wayfarer, guelder rose, purging buckthorn, dogwood, field maple, spindle, sloe and hawthorn. Box is sometimes found and, in some localities, two native conifers, yew and juniper, form groves and thickets. The ground flora is rich add varied. Chalk soils are always dry. Their suitability for tree growth varies greatly with the depth of loam. On deep soils wide range of species, including many conifers, succeeds, but on shallow soils the best tree to plant is the beech, which builds up its own humus from its abundant leaf fall. When young, however, it needs shelter which is usually provided by planting Austrian or Corsican pines.
Limestone woods. These occur farther north and west, and are also dry underfoot. Ash is the dominant species, with a few of the lime-loving species found on the Downs, such as oak, maple, spindle, sloe, hawthorn, and yew. Beech is the most useful of planted trees. Fig. 1.
Woods of the Heathland. Heather and heaths are typical of acid soils throughout Britain, the true Heather or Ling favouring the drier areas. The subsoil is usually sand, sandstone, gravel, or a pervious acidic rock, though occasional small heaths form above calcareous strata. In Scotland, where the largest areas occur, the dominant tree is the Scots Pine. Few hardwoods occur, the chief of them being birch and rowan. The ground flora is limited, being composed mainly of dwarf shrubs, such as the heaths and bilberries. In south-eastern England, the birch, being the only native species adapted to the heath, is dominant; Scots Pine and Rowan have been introduced and are spreading naturally. Where the acid soil of the heaths becomes water-logged, no trees can grow; the last to give up the struggle is a small fragrant shrub called Bog Myrtle. On ground too damp for this, rushes, sedges, and sphagnum moss appear, and a great depth of peat is slowly built up. Figs. 2, 3.
On the drier heaths, the pines are the most successful of planted trees. The damp heaths are unplantable unless drained or ploughed, after which they become dry enough for conifers to be planted.
fen woods. Where the land is more or less water-logged, but has a rich soil not too acid for tree growth, alder usually takes possession of the ground. Lesser Species are Alder Buckthorn and the Goat Willows, with birch on the drier hummocks. The limited ground flora is aquatic or nearly so. Alder is the only economic tree on such soils.
Trees of the riverside. The land beside the rivers is usually of a rich alluvial nature, well-watered by occasional floods but also well-drained. Willows, poplars, and alder are the commonest species, with elms on the higher and drier ground. Such soils are rarely available for forestry, except as willow-beds; they are very suitable for the spruces. Figs. 4, 5, 6.
Woods of the richer soils. Land that is neither markedly acid nor alkaline, too wet nor too dry, has seldom been left under natural woodland in Britain. Where such woods occur, it is usual for oaks to take the leading part, on account of their great length of life; but the tree flora is highly varied including elm, ash, beech, birch, hornbeam, wild cherry, pear, apple and yew. In the under- Wood, holly, sloe, hawthorn, dogwood, and guelder rose are frequent, and where the woods have been open to grazing, the spinier shrubs predominate. The ground flora is very varied, wild hyacinth being especially frequent. Such soils will grow a wide range of trees, but are best utilised by the more exacting species, such as oak and ash.
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