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Ancient woodland indicators

BEDFORD Purlieus National Nature Reserve (NNR) in the Soke of Peterborough, is home to more plant and insect species than most other woods in the country

During a recent visit to the NNR we observed a number of ancient woodland indicators; Bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa), Common dog-violet (Viola riviniana), Early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana), Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) and Stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus).

Ancient woodland indicators (AWIs) are species that are usually more common in ancient woodland than in more recent sites. They are most commonly vascular plants, although they have been identified in other plant and animal groups (e.g lichens, invertebrates).

Indicator species are often chosen for the following characteristics; poor dispersal ability, short-lived seed banks, poor ability to compete with more generalist species in sunlight, an adaptation to deep shade and low nutrients, and reliance upon vegetative propagation via rhizomes, stolons or suckers.

Further examples of AWI plants include:

  • Yellow archangel
  • Wild strawberry
  • Dog’s mercury
  • Herb paris
  • Wood spurge
  • Wood forget me not
  • Red helleborine
  • Green hellebore


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About UES

United Environmental Services (UES) provide ecological surveys and advice (including protected species licensing), ecological project management, landscaping and habitat creation works and a host of other services. Based in Knutsford, Cheshire, we work f... read more