Queen's Wood Coppices
Summary Botanical Report
May 6th, 2016
This Summary Botanical Report covers changes observed in the
floras of each of the four coppices in Queen's Wood over the
last three years. Each coppice is discussed in turn,
starting with the earliest, Coppice P, which was cut in the
winter of 2008/2009. Details of the early years of this
Coppice can be found in Bevan (2011).
This early coppice has matured over seven full seasons and
has now stopped recruiting any new plants. The last two
additions were recorded in 2014 - Hogweed Heracleum
sphondylium, and Creeping Buttercup Ranunculus repens. Both
these widespread plants were found at the edge of the
perimeter path. The centre of the coppice has now closed
over and is impenetrable. Prior to coppicing, there were
just 39 species of flowering plant present. During the seven
years after the coppice was cut, a further 156 species were
recorded, mostly in the first three years. They included a
number of London rarities like the tiny Blinks Montia
fontana, the ancient woodland specialists Slender St.
John's-wort Hypericum pulchrum and Square-stalked St.
John's-wort H. tetrapterum, and an unusually vigorous garden
cultivar of Water Avens Geum urbanum "Leonard's variety"
that must have escaped from a local garden. A very puzzling
large-leaved Persicaria was finally determined at the
Natural History Museum as P. senegalensis from tropical
Africa. It was a new record for London.
Today, little light penetrates to the woodland floor in the
centre of the coppice and so a smaller range of plants can
survive. Nevertheless, the coppice still supports around
70 species - nearly twice as many as before the coppice was
cut, and many others survive in the seed-bank, ready to
germinate when conditions are more favourable.
Bevan, D. 2011. Coppicing Haringey's ancient woodlands.
Lond. Nat. 90: 55 - 80.
This large coppice was cut in the winter of 2012/2013 and
has three full seasons to develop. During this period the
coppice has supported more than 80 species including a
number of rarities. Two pear trees were present from before
the coppice was cut, but their true identities remained
enigmatic, as they had never been seen in flower due to the
dense shade of this part of the Wood. One of the two trees
blew down in a gale early in 2013 but remained very much
alive, although growing horizontally. The other tree
remained upright but leans at an angle of around thirty
degrees from the vertical. Both tree flowered well in the
spring of 2015 and again in 2016. They also produced
numerous small, circular black fruit - quite unlike the
large, pear-shaped fruit of the culinary pear tree. Both
trees are very spiny at the base of the lower branches.
These would appear to be the native wild pear trees Pyrus
pyraster, believed by the late Oliver Rackham to be "one of
the rarest British plants". Rackham (2003). I know of only
one other comparable tree in north London - a much smaller
tree on Hampstead Heath. There is a 1958 record of Wild Pear
from Queen's Wood - possibly the same trees.
The discovery of a young seedling Fuchsia in this coppice in
2013 was another surprise. Fuchsias rarely produce much
fertile seed in the London area, and this was the first time
I had come across such a plant. We had to wait until 2014
before it produces some flowers - disclosing it to be a form
of F, magellanica.
Seven different Willowherbs were noted in the coppice,
including the Pale Willowherb Epilobium roseum, which is
very local in London. Finally, Tutsan Hypericum androsaemum
appeared in 2014 - an attractive St. John's-wort that has
now appeared in all the coppices except Coppice K (which is
probably too dry for it). Oliver Rackham noted it in Coppice
P in 2010 and suggested that it had germinated from buried
seed. However, it is also widely grown in gardens, and Kent
(1975) believed that most of our London woodland Tutsan are
all now garden escapes. I have recently recorded it on the
Parkland Walk - where it is certainly an escape.
Kent, D. H., 1975. The Historical Flora of Middlesex. The
Ray Society. London.
Rackham, O. 2003. Ancient Woodland. Castlepoint Press.
This large coppice, which includes marshy ground close to
the extensive back gardens belonging to properties on
Muswell Hill Road, was cut in the winter of 2013/2014. The
varied terrain has provided habitats for a greater range of
plants than have been found in the adjacent Coppice U.
Although only two years old, it has already provided homes
to more than 90 species, and is likely to continue
recruiting more over the next few years. Among the most
interesting discoveries was a small colony of the tiny sedge
known as Bristle Club-rush Isolepis setacea. This very rare
gem is a seed-bank specialist, appearing when conditions are
to its liking, and then "disappearing" back into the
seed-bank. It appeared in Coppice K back in 1992, and I am
looking forward to its possible reappearance there later
this year (see below). A small population of Meadowsweet
Filipendula ulmaria appeared in 2015, when its profuse white
flowers were much appreciated. This is a plant of marshy
ground that is fast declining in London where little
suitable habitat survives. It is another species that forms
a persistent seed-bank. It appears to be new to the Wood,
but may have been overlooked in the past. Another attractive
native plant, not seen in the Wood for many years, is the
Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus. This was noted by Latimer
(1984) in compartment W in 1984, and "resurfaced" in 2015 on
the boundary between compartments W and V. It is not known
to provide a seed-bank and may have persisted as a small
vegetative fragment for more than thirty years! Hopefully it
will flower this year or next.
The proximity of large gardens along the western boundary of
the Wood has allowed a range of ornamental exotics to escape
into the coppice. One of these, found on March 23rd 2014 on
the edge of the drainage ditch, Pinnate Coralroot Cardamine
heptaphylla, has only been recorded as an escape in Britain
on only three occasions since 1950 and thus has a claim to
be our scarcest introduction. Sadly, it did not persist. Two
more unexpected exotics, much beloved by garden designers,
became establishes in 2015 - the elegant grass
Pheasant's-tail Anemanthele lessoniana, and the beautiful
Whit-stemmed Bramble Rubus cockburnianus. This coppice is
fast becoming a true botanical garden!
Latimer, W. 1984. Woodland Contrasts. Wildwood or City Park.
Highgate and Queen's Woods - a survey of their Biology and
Management. The London Wildlife Trust.
This most recent coppice is of particular interest as it was
previously cut back in February 1992, the first coppice to
be cut in the Wood for more than a hundred years. In 1991
compartment K supported just 16 species. By the end of the
first year after the coppice was cut (October 1992), this
had grown to 69 species.
In 2014, 27 species were recorded before the coppice was cut
in the winter of 2014/2015. This higher total was a direct
consequence of the earlier (1992) coppice and its lasting
effect on the vegetation. By October 2015 a total of 56
species had been recorded. This slightly lower total than in
1992 is likely to result from the scattering of a thick
layer of wood chippings following the most recent coppice.
In the 1992 coppice, a dead-hedge was constructed around the
perimeter and far fewer wood chippings were scattered. As
the current wood chippings break down, more wild flowers are
likely to appear. Many of the plants appearing in 2015 are
similar to those seen in 1992, but there have been some
welcome additions including Wall Lettuce Mycelis muralis and
Sticky Groundsel Senecio viscosus. The latter is likely to
have germinated from buried seed, but the Wall Lettuce is
more likely to have come from wind-dispersed seed from
plants growing elsewhere in the Wood (where it is now
widespread). This year I am hoping to re-find the rare
Bristle Club-rush Isolepis setacea, which appeared here in
1992 and is known to survive as buried seed (see comments
above about Coppice W/V).
These four coppices continue to evolve and their floras
continue to develop and produce surprises. I am looking
forward monitoring them into the future.
Copies of more detailed recent surveys by David of coppiced areas including lists of species identified are available on request – email firstname.lastname@example.org