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Trees and plants

Hainault Forest is made up of a broad range of habitats. These include ancient woodland pasture, native broadleaf woodland, mature scrub and open grassland, heathland and former arable fields. Wetland habitats include streams, drainage ditches and woodland ponds.

Hornbeam is the dominant tree species with English oak common in some places. There is some ash in the wet areas, and on the edges of the former plains you will find grey poplar, hawthorn and blackthorn. The areas that were once open have been colonised by birch and there is also some beech, planted in the early 20th century. The undergrowth is mainly holly and bramble.

Ground flora includes hairy wood-rush, butcher’s broom, bluebell, forget-me-not, red campion, greater stitchwort, cow parsley, herb robert, wood speedwell, sanicle, and wood avens. The wet areas support wetland species such as the bulrush and hop and other woodland flora such as wood sorrel, bugle and false-brome.

(Photo: WTML / Gary Bridger)

The heathland component is a particularly uncommon habitat in Essex and regionally rare plants include dwarf gorse, petty whin, lousewort, water chickweed, sallow, broad-leaved helleborine, common centaury, black poplar, ramson and barren strawberry. Other plants include petty whin, gorse and lousewort. Grassland species include lady’s smock, field madder, lesser trefoil, sheep sorrel, and common vetch.

The site also supports 335 species of macro-fungi and slime mould, including the clouded and fly agaric, green elf cap, oyster mushroom, spectacular rustgill, southern bracket, birch polypore, turkeytail, common puffball, buttercap, clubfoot, trooping funnel, stump puffball, ochre brittlegill, drab bonnet, common earthball, scaly earthball, lilac bonnet, glistening inkcap, cinnamon bracket, sulphur tuft, birch mazegill, dead man’s fingers, bicoloured deceiver, beech and birch woodwart, hairy curtain crust, branching oyster, oyster mushroom, split porecrust, common puffball, variable oysterling, beech woodwart, brown rollrim, red cracking bolete, coral spot, russet toughshank, snapping bonnet, leopard earthball, clouded funnel, mild milkcap, slender club fungus, angel’s bonnet, deer shield, candle snuff, beech tarcrust, beech mazegill, wrinkled crust, witches butter, and the rare clitocybe Americana.

There has been little or no woodcutting or grazing since the turn of the century but in recent years a phased programme of opening up and connecting these open areas has been undertaken.

Approximately 40 acres of former arable land at Park Farm Havering has been converted to grazed grassland, with eight British short-horn cattle with calves introduced in 2007. Ultimately it is planned that grazing will be extended from these fields into Hainault Forest itself.