Last Flowers in the Woods?

It’s the turning point for the ground flora in my local patch, Beggarspath Wood – though it is about a month late given this year’s strange weather. The bluebells that provide such a marvellous purple dazzle across the woodland floor, returned without fail this year lasting well into June. Now however that prolonged ecstasy has come to an end, the sweet-scented blooms becoming a slimy, flattened layer of humus. It’s very much the beast to their earlier beauty. But their seeds have been sown for next year, and the humus itself is rich in nutrients that will ultimately benefit all the organisms within this ecosystem’s community.

Before the bluebells of 2013 disappeared however I was out to fetch my annual quota of shots, this year trying some originality by lying on the woodland floor, creating a ‘bug’s eye view’ of looking up into the bluebell. You can measure the success of this below (along with some more traditional compositions.)

There were others among the bluebells – plenty of red campion (pictured at the top of this article), speedwells, stitchworts and ground ivy, pushing through the few gaps left unfilled by their more obvious neighbours. Most have still lasted through, but if Spring was the time of the bluebell then Summer belongs to the bracken. Such plant monocultures plague across the woodland floor, restricting the diversity of other flower species and their dependent species.

For these single-species forest floors are not what you’d naturally expect to find – the reasoning is highly likely due to the extinction of wild boar from our countryside, the only animal capable of eating bracken and who’s rooting activities both prevent one species becoming dominant and enriching the turnover of nutrients in the soil. Subsequently, a rainbow palette of woodland wildflowers, tall and iridescent in their health would decorate our forests. If boar were to return nationwide (which, if their current spread continues unabated, could be the case in 20-30 years) we may not have the bluebell carpet, but perhaps the alternative would be even more beautiful.

Food for thought when you go out to enjoy the bluebells next Spring.

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