We have around 30 species of tree and shrub at Hazel Hill Wood, which is a pretty good number for just 70 acres. Most of them are native.
I am coming from a wildlife conservation perspective. Other perspectives which come into play at Hazel Hill Wood include forestry and spiritual/cultural perspectives. So, for forestry, a “good tree” would be one that is tall and straight. Spiritually significant trees may be “energy centres” of the wood. And other culturally significant trees might include those that look nice or are impressive but aren’t necessarily rich in wildlife.
Native species like oak and birch support a huge amount of invertebrate life, with lots of species dependent on them. An example – most butterfly and moth caterpillars will only eat certain plants. Purple hairstreak butterfly caterpillars eat oak leaves only. They tend to stay up in the canopy of the tree, so are hard to spot but it is possible with binoculars in the summer. Another example is the argent and sable moth which eats only birch in our part of the world, but is even fussier and only likes very young birch. They are a nationally scarce and declining species, and have been recorded at Hazel Hill Wood in the past but I haven’t seen one yet in my 3 years here.
The Heartwood of Hazel Hill is mainly Scots pine and beech, planted in straight lines for forestry. It is quite bare on the ground here as beech casts a heavy shade. Bluebells are popping up now; woodland plants tend to flower early to take advantage of the light available before trees come back into leaf.
Other parts of the wood are dominated by young birch wood. These cast less shade, meaning lots of light reaches the ground and more plants can grow underneath.
Having a variety or mosaic of habitats is great for biodiversity, with areas of mature trees, areas of young trees and areas of no trees. A range of conditions helps to support lots of different species coexisting in one fairly small area.
- Mature woodland – great for birds including hole nesters who need older trees with cavities.
- Young woodland – great for small mammals, amphibians and moths.
- Rides and glades – favourite spots for reptiles, wildflowers, butterflies, bees, beetles and bats.
- Deadwood – minibeasts/invertebrates like millipedes, woodlice, beetles and their predators – centipedes, larger beetles, birds, small mammals. If we’re too tidy, we won’t support as much of this wildlife.
- Pond – amphibians, invertebrates like dragonflies and damselflies, and all wildlife needs water.
How to identify trees
Firstly – you can just enjoy trees without knowing much about them! But if you want to learn more, there are many parts of the tree to help you work out what species you’re looking at at different times of the year. There are:
- fruits, including seeds and nuts
- the shape of the tree
The Woodland Trust website is great for learning more about trees, including folklore as well as scientific stuff. It takes time to learn these things, and there is always more to learn!
The OPAL tree ID guide is also a great resource which can be printed at A4 or A3. We have some laminated copies at Hazel Hill Wood – let us know if you’d like to borrow one next time you visit.
Charley Miller, Conservation & Education Coordinator