Spring ephemerals in ancient woods

We had the opportunity over the Easter weekend to visit Hayley Wood, an ancient woodland located outside of Cambridge that pre-dates medieval times.  Presently, the Wood is managed under traditional coppice by standards, with large oaks that are estimated to be ca. 300 years old.  Professor Oliver Rackham’s work on the British countryside has been heavily influenced by Hayley, and in turn, he has been instrumental in its conservation.

Hayley Wood is particularly important, however, for its sizeable population of oxslips (Primula elatior).  During spring, the oxslips burst to life along with much of the other ground flora to produce a spectacular display of colour.  Carpets of bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) line the various woodland rides and we even managed to count 20+ orchids interspersed throughout one section of the Wood.  These seemed to fit the description of the early purple orchid (Orchis mascula), especially the spotted foliage, but do comment if you know what it is!

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Having spent many years in the Carolinian forest, even doing research there on spring ephemerals such as the showy white trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), I don’t ever feel homesick in British woodlands.  There’s always something to see in the Spring, with among the most beautiful floral displays anywhere in the world.

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