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Ancient semi-natural woodlands are defined as woodlands which have been in existence for over 400 years. This is not to be confused with original woodland or as some authors call it Wild wood.  There is probably no true wild wood left in the UK, wild wood being wood which developed after the last glacial period and has been in existence ever since without any interference from man, ie no coppicing, or removal of certain trees for timber or charcoal for smelting, and no planting. Just left to its own devices to regenerate in its own sweet way.

Anemones and bluebells

Anemones and bluebells

However there are woods which will have had woodland growing on that site ever since the last glaciation, and these woods will have a rich and distinctive flora. Many woodland plants are very slow to colonise, partly because their dispersal is not that efficient and for many they reproduce largely asexually, ie they do not produce seeds and rely on bulbs and corms to maintain their presence and to slowly, very slowly spread. There are several web sites where you can find lists of plants which indicate that a woodland is quite old or ancient.                Below is a list which I have copied from The Woodland Trust….. and then I have highlighted the plants which I have found in Catbrook wood highlighted in green and  Ninewells wood highlighted in red. There seems to be some omissions from this list like Herb Paris and Yellow Archangel, but as they explain on their website, this list is made up from species found on 129 known ancient woodland sites and it could be that the two I have mentioned are quite rare and so were not present in the sites they used. They say that ‘Of the 63 species on the list, 41(indicated by *) also appear on other UK lists of ancient woodland species, determined by expert judgement’

Latin name Common name
Ajuga reptans Bugle
Anemone nemorosa* Wood anemone
Arum maculatum* Lords-and-ladies
Atrichum undulatum* Common smoothcap
Betula pubescens Downy birch
Blechnum spicant* Hard-fern
Brachypodium sylvaticum* False brome
Calliergonella cuspidata Pointed spear-moss
Cardamine flexuosa* Wavy bitter-cress
Carex remota* Remote sedge
Carex sylvatica* Wood-sedge
Chrysosplenium oppositifolium* Opposite-leaved golden-saxifrage
Circaea lutetiana* Enchanter’s-nightshade
Conocephalum conicum Great scented liverwort
Conopodium majus Pignut
Corylus avellana* Hazel
Crepis paludosa Marsh hawk’s-beard
Dicranum scoparium* Broom fork-moss
Digitalis purpurea Foxglove
Diplophyllum albicans White earwort
Dryopteris affinis* Scaly male fern
Eurhynchium praelongum Common feather-moss
Eurhynchium striatum* Lesser striated feather-moss
Galium odoratum* Woodruff
Galium palustre Common marsh-bedstraw
Geranium robertianum* Herb-robert
Geum urbanum Wood avens
Glyceria fluitans Floating sweet-grass
Hedera helix Ivy
Hyacinthoides non-scripta* Bluebell
Hypericum pulchrum* Slender St John’s-wort
Isothecium myosuroides* Slender mouse-tail moss
Lapsana communis Nipplewort
Lonicera periclymenum* Honeysuckle
Luzula pilosa* Hairy wood-rush
Luzula sylvatica* Great wood-rush
Lysimachia nemorum* Yellow pimpernel
Mentha aquatica Water mint
Orchis mascula* Early-purple orchid
Oxalis acetosella* Wood sorrel
Pellia epiphylla Overleaf pellia
Plagiomnium undulatum Hart’s-tongue thyme-moss
Polypodium interjectum Intermediate polypody
Polystichum aculeatum* Hard shield-fern
Potentilla sterilis* Barren strawberry
Prunus spinosa Blackthorn
Ranunculus ficaria Lesser celandine
Rhizomnium punctatum* Dotted thyme-moss
Rhytidiadelphus loreus* Little shaggy-moss
Rhytidiadelphus triquetrus* Big shaggy-moss
Rosa canina Dog-rose
Salix caprea* Goat willow
Salix cinerea Grey willow
Sanicula europaea* Sanicle
Senecio aquaticus Marsh ragwort
Sorbus aucuparia* Rowan
Stellaria holostea* Greater stitchwort
Stellaria uliginosa* Bog stitchwort
Thuidium tamariscinum* Common tamarisk-moss
Vaccinium myrtillus* Bilberry
Valeriana officinalis* Common valerian
Veronica montana* Wood speedwell
Viola riviniana* Common dog-violet

Other sites  with lists that you might find useful are 1. The Natural History Museum list  OK apologies to the Woodland trust but I do not like your list so I have presented another one…. this one was compiled by Professor Oliver Rackham and it can be viewed by clicking HERE.

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