Wet Woodland Plant Survey
Survey Conclusions


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Subjective Observations & Conclusions

1. All six areas are different from each other.  Not all of the areas are wet.  Some are drier because of the slope of the ground and the quality of the drainage.


2. The Stony Area is the most diverse. 


3. The Cherry Area is the least diverse. 


4. No mature trees appeared in any randomly selected quadrat, even though most of the wet woodland has a mature tree canopy.


5. Of the 70 plant species identified in the Wet Woodland, 14 of them were mosses.  At least one species of moss was present in the "top three" of each area.  This and the high number of moss species found across the wet woodland indicate that it is very important for mosses.


6. Young holly saplings appear throughout the Wet Woodland, yet there are no mature holly trees.  Holly berries are a favourite food for many birds, it is likely that most of the young holly trees have been "planted" by birds who eat the berries on trees outside of the Wet Woodland and pass the seeds in their droppings whilst roosting in the Wet Woodland.


7. Rhododendron ponticum is found throughout the Wet Woodland area and is a dominant species in the Mound.  Without control this species would be a severe problem.  It blocks light to other plant species making it difficult for them to grow.  It produces a build up of toxic leaf litter on the ground which is detrimental to natural regeneration.  Being an alien species it does not form a valuable part of any natural habitat in Britain and is toxic to most animal species.


8. Polytrichum formosum has a highly significant presence within both the Clearance and the Stony Area.


9. The Bluebell Area is visibly dominated by Bluebells during the spring and early summer.  However at other times of the year ferns and mosses will be the most dominant species.


10. The most populous mature tree in each of the six areas of the Wet Woodland is Silver Birch (Betula pendula).  Willow was almost entirely confined to the Seepage Area.  11 species of trees were found throughout the Wet Woodland.


11. Non-Native Cherry is a significant problem at ground cover level within both the Cherry Area and the Stony Area.  In the Cherry Area it has already lowered the level of native plant diversity.  Within the Stony Area it represents a threat to the comparatively high level of plant diversity.
Control of this species will be essential to prevent it having an increasingly detrimental effect on native plant life in the Wet Woodland.


12. The Seepage Area is dominated by two species of rushes, Bulbous Rush (Juncus bulbosus) and Soft Rush (Juncus effusus).  Both species are moisture loving and native to Britain.


13. At least one species of sphagnum moss is present in the Seepage Area.


14. Two species of heather, Ling (Calluna vulgaris) and Cross-Leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) are present within the Wet Woodland.  The Wet Woodland is adjacent to the Heathland Area, which under management is returning naturally to flourishing lowland heath.  It is likely that the Wet Woodland was at one time wet lowland heath, before succession of trees took place, returning it to woodland.   Indeed, the pioneering tree species Silver Birch (Betula pendula) makes up most of the mature tree population.  Cross-Leaved Heath (Erica tetralix) is characteristic of the wetter areas of heathland.


15. A total of 70 plant species were identified within the Wet Woodland.  14 of these were mosses.  There were also 7 species of ferns, 11 of trees, 7 of sedges and 5 of rushes.


As with other areas at the Woodland Education Centre at Offwell, both non-native cherry and the ever-present Rhododendron ponticum pose a real threat to the natural diversity of flora and fauna within the Wet Woodland.  The main reasons for this are that both alien species grow rapidly and produce large numbers of seeds which go on to germinate.  This helps to give them a competitive advantage over many native plant species.  As they will curtail the growth of many of these species they represent a threat to the future of the habitat.   Wet Woodland habitat is nationally important and the diversity of plant life in the Wet Woodland at Offwell will only continue if the Rhododendron ponticum and non-native cherry are controlled.


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