Small Woodland Owners' Group

Weeding out Silver Birch

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Postby Catweazle » Wed Aug 04, 2010 8:27 pm

Stephen1, firstly - thanks for some very useful posts, you clearly know your trees.

I agree about leaving some Silver Birch, but not as a squirrel bait, I'd leave it for use as kindling because it burns fast and hot - great for lighting the heavier woods like Oak and Hornbeam.

I haven't seen much silver birch damage this year, the FC man commented on it un-prompted, proof that a sustained shooting policy really does work.

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Postby Twybill » Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:39 am


I think most of our woods are overstocked with trees and the distance apart of Oaks could quite easily be 100 foot. You ask what growth form these trees would have and I would suggest that large spreading crowns and side branches would result. There is nothing wrong with brambles as these provide a nursery for trees to germinate and a microclimate which is better than tree tubes. Brambles are great for smothering dense grass and this provides a tilth ideal for tree seeds. Where the brambles are bothering a sapling they can easily be trampled down until the tree gets away.

Not everyone owns a wood purely for the amount of timber that can be got out. For those whose interest is the wildlife and a timber crop, then an open grown woodland can provide for all needs. I am just suggesting that for newcomers, there are other ways to manage a wood in which grey squirrels can be kept at bay and the fruit picking in late summer is an added bonus. With large distances between the 'standards' there is plenty of light and room for brambles, coppice and pollards, as well as butterflies and nesting birds.

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Postby Stephen1 » Thu Aug 05, 2010 8:27 pm

Oh dear Twybill - I have clearly explained myself so poorly that you have misunderstood my position to a large extent.

My interest in woodland is in many ways focused not so much on the obvious part - the trees- but on the woodland groundflora. The position with brambles is very complicated, and there are very many factors involved that are very specific to individual sites.

On the whole though I think, from my perspective, it would be a mistake to manage a woodland as you suggest. The negative impact on the groundflora would be too great - and consequently also on the specialist invertebrates that were unique to those plant communities.

It's true brambles are very valuable - good protected nest sites, nectar/pollen and in certain light levels (depending on the canopy) bramble also, as you suggest, can provide good protected regeneration sites for trees (but watch out for the vole years! - ringbarking the young trees at the base whilst protected from predators by the brambles).

I believe a woodland where trees where maintained so far apart that squirrels were unable to jump from the canopy of one to another, and with a ground flora dominated by the sort of very vigorous bramble that would grow under such a permanently open canopy (which I accept would prevent squirrels crossing the ground) wouldn't allow for any of my prejudices about woodland from a conservation or production point of view to be fulfilled.

But each to their own!

I note your coment "Not everyone owns a wood purely for the amount of timber that can be got out." Just over 150acres of our woodland is worked with purely from a conservation point of view, with no intention of production now or in the future. I absolutley accept the continued management (coppicing, selective felling etc.) of our ancient woodlands, in terms of them being maintained as the cultural monuments / artefacts they are (As advocated by Oliver Rackham), but my own perspective is one of "Future natural wildwood" (more in the style of George Peterken - or at least as one of the approachs he would suggest as appropriate in certain specific circumstances).

I think we're probably best agreeing to disagree!

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Postby Twybill » Thu Aug 05, 2010 10:40 pm

Hi Stephen1

Actually I do agree with you that in a flower rich woodland brambles would not be welcome. In my own wood there isn't that problem because the only ground flora previously was wavy hair grass and creeping soft grass before I increased the light levels. From a fairly bleak start, brambles, hogweed and many other plants are now creeping in. I do clear the brambles in rotation and then I seem to get raspberries! It just serves to illustrate all our woodlands are different and the value of exchanging ideas.

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Postby Henrietta » Tue Aug 10, 2010 8:43 am

We have just spent the weekend camping in the woods. My daughter decided to sleep in a tent on top of the Landrover, and she noticed hundreds of honey bees in the canopy of the Silver Birch. We lost our small colony of bees last winter, but the new colony has done really well, and they are obviously finding the Birch useful.

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