A new guide shows how to boost the biodiversity of newly-planted native woods by planting common woodland wild flowers and grasses.

The comprehensive step-by-step guidance aims to speed up the natural colonisation of important woodland flora into newly planted woods.

Published by NatureScot, the work is funded by the Patsy Wood Trust and supported by Scottish Forestry, Plantlife Scotland, Scotia Seeds and Stirling University.

Planting of new broadleaved woodland can often take place on former agricultural land, but it can take decades or even centuries for these sites to acquire natural woodland plants.

The guide recommends that small populations of key common woodland plants such as dog violet, bluebells, wild garlic and primrose are sown or planted, chosen carefully to match the woodland type and soil conditions. These small populations are then encouraged to spread naturally over time, enriching the habitat and creating a more attractive space for people to enjoy.

READ MORE: Staunton Harold: The cost of making tracks

NatureScot woodlands officer Kate Holl said: “When native trees are planted it can often take decades for other woodland species to appear. We can give nature a helping hand by planting wildflowers and grasses to speed up the process and boost biodiversity.

“We need to build on our precious existing ancient woodlands which are home to dozens of species of colourful woodland flowers. Once we thought that if we waited long enough the flowers would appear, but experience from the past 40 years has shown that this rarely works.

“This guide shows that when well-planned and implemented, introducing flowers and other plants to certain woods can kick start this process, greatly improving woodland biodiversity, helping threatened pollinators and making a real contribution to tackling the nature crisis.”

Lead author and woodland consultant Rick Worrell, said: “Unfortunately woodland plants find it very hard to spread naturally in our current landscape. This is because they often rely on woodland insects, like ants, to spread their seed; and ants aren’t able to cross farmland and carry seed from wood to wood. This new guidance has people stepping in to give a helping hand.”

Scottish Forestry’s environment policy advisor, Colin Edwards, added: “We recognise the immense ecological value in developing a native ground flora at the same time as establishing new woodland through planting. Woodlands are complex systems, so any assistance we can give to creating these natural habitats is welcomed.”

The guide includes advice for selecting and planting woodland flora, highlights the importance of plant genetics, health and biosecurity and sets out the need to consider wider factors including the need for deer management.

Read the full document here.

This story originally appeared in the Scottish Farmer.

Forestry Journal remains dedicated to bringing you all the latest news and views from across our industry, plus up-to-date information on the impacts of COVID-19.

Please support us by subscribing to our print edition, delivered direct to your door, from as little at £75 for 1 year – or consider a digital subscription from just £1 for 3 months.

To arrange, follow this link: https://www.forestryjournal.co.uk/subscribe/

Thanks – and stay safe.