On Tuesday 11th February, volunteers braved the wet conditions to spend the day working at a new site. Queen Mary’s Woodland is a large stretch of undisturbed woodland, only recently acquired by Sutton Council. At around five hectares is size, Queen Mary’s Woodland is one of the larger sites managed by Sutton Nature Conservation Volunteers.
The woodland has been left to its own devices for the past few decades, resulting in several invasive species, such as cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) and Russian vine (Fallopia baldschuanica) taking over in some parts of the wood. Cherry laurel is a fast-growing evergreen shrub which originates in Southwest Asia. Perhaps its most unattractive feature is its toxicity, as the leaves and seeds of the cherry laurel contain chemicals capable of releasing cyanide. Cherry laurels had dominated several areas along the path at Queen Mary’s Woodland, so volunteers got to work removing these invasive shrubs. Because of cherry laurel’s ability for such rapid growth, they are able to out-compete surrounding plants for light and space. They also use ‘suckers’ – shoots that grow out of the base of the tree – to spread even quicker. By cutting the shrub back completely and applying chemicals to stop re-growth, native species such as early dog-violet (Viola reichenbachiana) will be able to prosper in the area.
Queen Mary’s Woodland is a fairly shaded and wet environment, which makes it an excellent habitat for bryophyte and lichen species. Bryophytes are the oldest land plants on earth and are comprised of mosses, liverworts and hornworts. These plants offer an excellent micro-habitat for species of insects and other invertebrates. Lichen are a bit more unusual, growing on the trunk of trees, they are a combination of two different organisms: fungi and algae. The two exist in a symbiotic system, which means both are working together to provide mutual benefits. Indeed there were a number of lichen species found at Queen Mary’s Woodland; one of the species identified was the common orange lichen (Xanthoria parietina), which is a leafy lichen characterised by its orange-yellow colour.
Other species spotted at Queen Mary’s Woodland include the aptly named Jelly-eared fungus (Auricularia auricular-judae). However, we are still very much at the early stages of discovering the range of animal, plant and fungus diversity at Queen Mary’s. With new site management we are hoping to improve the structural and species diversity in the areas running alongside the path, through clearing these invasive species. For the moment, the rest of the woodland will be left alone, until we have a better understanding about what is actually living there!
SNCV Biodiversity Assistant