Monday, 23 March 2009

Wytham Woods in March

I went to Wytham Woods today hoping to see the hazel catkins. Some were still on the trees but I was too late – most lay on the ground and I only saw a few female flowers (tiny dark-red spines poking out from green buds). Hazels live in the semi-ancient part of the woods, once coppiced.

The way these trees grow in bundles gives the underwood a tangled appearance with a special beauty. The beech plantations are younger and more ordered. Last year’s leaves cover the ground giving it a lovely copper colour.

Today was quite windy and over in the Great Wood I filmed these sycamores swaying and clattering against each other. The trees looked especially animate (even entish) in these gusts.

Primroses flowered throughout the woods, taking their turn before the bluebells. Primroses always live in ‘guilds’ (a set of plant or animal species that share an ecological niche), especially with anemones, violets and bluebells. 
In Woodlands Oliver Rackham raises a question about this ecological pattern: ‘Why do guilds exist? Why does one best-adapted species – dog’s mercury, bramble, bracken – not always out-compete the others and take over the site? … Are guilds chance groupings of plants that happen to grow in the same environment, or are they plant ‘communities’ in a real sense, with mechanisms of integration between species?’ It might be assumed that we already know the answers to a question like this but instead the deeper into woodlands you look the more questions emerge.  


  1. Lovely picture of the beech plantation.

  2. I just found this post by searching for Wytham Woods. Nice photos -- the delicate colours in the second are especially good. Thanks.