Trees and plants at Cadora Woods

On the woodland floor dog’s mercury thrives along with ferns, including hart’s-tongue fern and soft-shield fern. (Photo: WTML)

The main area of semi-natural ash woodland is at Causeway Grove with other areas at Cadora Woods, Bigsweir Woods and along Coxbury Lane. Tall ash trees that were once coppiced grow alongside wild cherry, sycamore and small-leaved lime, some of which have been pollarded. Other tree species present include beech, silver birch, white beam, hornbeam and both sessile and pedunculate oaks.

Below the tree canopy is a shrub layer of hazel, holly, field maple, hawthorn and wych elm that is dense in places. On the woodland floor dog’s mercury thrives along with ferns, including hart’s-tongue fern and soft-shield fern. In places, bramble is abundant, particularly where the tree canopy has been opened, for example by recent coppicing.

Bluebell and wild garlic

In spring, bluebell and wild garlic are in bloom. Other plants to look out for include alder buckthorn, bilberry, bitter vetch, common violet, dog violet, cow-wheat, forester’s woodrush, foxglove, greater woodrush, herb Paris, red campion, wild arum, wood melick, foxglove and yellow archangel.

Bigsweir Woods is semi-natural oak woodland as are parts of Cadora Woods, especially at the margins. Bigsweir has many ancient trees, which are thought to be of native genetic stock and reflect the natural distribution of tree species at the site. Sessile oak is generally dominant but the wood also has small-leaved lime and beech as well as silver birch and wild cherry.

The wood’s shrub layer is mainly hazel, holly, beech and sycamore. Large areas of the woodland floor are carpeted with blooming bluebells in spring and, later, are dominated by bramble.

Other frequent species include bracken, broad buckler-fern, climbing corydalis, hard fern, honeysuckle, ivy, field wood-rush, lady fern, male fern, spreading bellflower, wood anemone, wood fescue, wood millet, wood sorrel and upright/Tintern spurge.

Douglas fir

Most of Cadora Woods is planted with Douglas fir, often with little, or no, surviving native vegetation. Areas were also replanted with another conifer, larch. However, some mature trees were retained when the fir and larch were planted, including large oaks and several mature yews. Other notable trees include old pollarded small-leaved lime and ash.

More than 850 of these survivor trees have been individually tagged and there are many others that are untagged. They are scattered throughout the site, including along Coxbury Lane and in the boundaries at Highbury Fields. Where they stand they support ‘hotspots’ of woodland specialist ground flora. The majority are small-leaved lime, but altogether 15 species have been identified as having value. Many have been traditionally managed as pollards, stubs or coppice, others are standard and boundary trees.

The grassland at Highbury Fields is rich in wild flowers and other plants. In all 45 flora species have been recorded.

Grasses

Grasses include sweet vernal-grass, common bent, Yorkshire fog, rough meadow-grass and cock’s-foot. With the grasses grow bird’s-foot trefoil, common sorrel, lesser stitchwort, germander speedwell, meadow vetchling, yarrow, meadow buttercup, common knapweed and white and red clovers. Also present are yellow rattle, self-heal, cat’s-ear, imperforate St John’s wort, pignut, field wood-rush, heath speedwell, oxeye daisy, red fescue, marsh thistle, common centaury, cowslip, white helleborine, primrose, common milkwort, common spotted orchid, creeping cinquefoil, crested dog’s-tail and glaucous sedge.

In damper areas greater bird’s-foot-trefoil, marsh thistle and compact and soft rushes and mint species thrive. Some areas are affected by invading creeping thistle, broadleaved dock, common nettle, bramble and bracken.

Hedgerows dividing the fields support many mature shrubs and trees including hazel, hawthorn, holly, elder and small-leaved lime as well as ground flora similar to that in the nearby woodland. Some invasive species do grow in the woodland and the Trust is working to deal with the problems they cause. They include butterfly bush or Buddleia, Himalayan balsam and Japanese Knotweed.

The woods are rich in fungi, lichens and mosses. (Photo: WTML)

Fungi, lichen and moss

The woods are rich in fungi, lichens and mosses. In all, 673 species of fungus have been recorded along with 209 lichens and 257 mosses.

The gorge woods, which include Cadora Woods, are shady, have plenty of rain and are relatively close to the sea. This makes them suitable for some rare species such the fungus Selgeria campylopoda. (most of the British population lives in the gorge) and long-leaved tail moss, Anomodon longifolius (which is found nowhere else in southern Britain).

Other notable fungi species to be found in Cadora and Bigsweir Woods include inky mushroom, orange peel fungus, tawny grisette, club foot, wood mulberry, smokey bracket, ruby bolete, chanterelle, green elfcup, white spindles, wood Woollyfoot, humpback inkcap, purple stocking webcap, common jellyspot, blushing bracket, beech barkspot, honey pinkgill, oak mildew, moss bell, southern bracket, elastic saddle, waxcaps, nut disco, woodwarts, fibrecaps, deceiver, milkcaps, boletes, nettle rash, puffballs, birch rust, bonnets, coral spot, common glasscup, brown rollrim, common stinkhorn, violet bramble rust, branching oyster, nettle clustercup rust, hollyhock rust, dawn brittlegill, split porecrust, yellow fan, hairy curtain crust, cobalt crust and white knight.

Mosses for the enthusiast to look out for include common aloe-moss, rambling tail-moss, whitish feather moss, wall thread-moss, brittle swan-neck, field forklet moss, cylindaric beard-moss, maidenhair pocket moss, grey-cushioned grimmia, yellow feather moss, larger mouse-tail moss, cape thread moss, slender bristle moss, woodsy thyme moss, taper-leaved earth moss, juniper haircap, green mountain fringe-moss, wall feather-moss, thickpoint grimmia, papillose bog-moss, water screw-moss, neat crisp-moss, and green yoke-moss.

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