Wild garlic in spring

What to look out for in spring

Spring has sprung at last, and that seemingly endless winter is finally over. As we emerge into longer, brighter days our forests provide a feast for your senses, with the sights, sounds and smells of spring bringing new life.

As you head outside, whilst following government guidelines, see if you can spot the spectacular signs of growth and new beginnings that transform our forests this season.

Wood anenome in coppice at Westonbirt Arboretum

Bright flora

The forest is glorious at this time of year – a riot of colour spreads along with a blanket of native wildflowers; primrose, lesser celandine, wood anemone and bluebells.

In early spring the wood anemones can be absolutely stunning. They are among the earliest woodland wildflowers. In a good year they create a carpet of white stars across areas of the forest which look every bit as beautiful as the sea of bluebells that comes later. They really are cheerful – the flowers turn their heads to follow the sun!

Wood anemones are surprisingly slow to spread, as they do so through roots rather than the spread of its seed. As such, it is a good indicator of ancient woodlands. When we reach late spring, another ancient woodland indicator covers the floor - bluebells. The sweetly-scented flowers that droop off the stalks of bluebells are well worth walking off the main paths to find later in the season.

Wild garlic in spring

What's that smell?

Imagine taking a deep breath and fill your nostrils with the distinct smell of wild garlic!

Dark-green foliage and small white flowers mark this wonderful plant, which can be found in many of our woodlands.

Stay connected to nature with our monthly newsletter, packed full of forest stories, activities and more!

Early Spring Westonbirt

New buds on trees

Tree buds remain dormant throughout winter, but the spring sunlight triggers the ‘budbreak’.

Buds contain a cell which is sensitive to light, so as the days get brighter and longer it detects when there is enough daylight for the leaves to survive.

The leaves which poke through contain a green pigment called chlorophyll. Chlorophyll helps trees to absorb the energy of the sunlight - the tree is essentially 'charging' during the spring and summer months. Chlorophyll changes carbon dioxide (CO2) + water (H2O) into sugars which 'feed' the tree. 

Photo credit: Simon Bound

Wildlife emerges

Bumblebees begin bumbling in spring, and the queens emerge in March and April on the search for nectar.

Butterflies are also out looking for pollen at this time of year – painted ladies, red admirals and tortoiseshells are fluttering about in woodlands.

Ponds fill with frogs, who mate and lay their frogspawn in the spring months. These jelly-like eggs are connected in clumps, and contain the beginnings of new life.

Bedgebury Pinetum bird firecrest
Photo credit: Simon Bound

Listen up!

Imagine this.

Close your eyes and imagine you're in your favourite forest. Whilst you’re taking it all in, look up to the canopy above you. The lighter days and warmer temperatures encourage birds to begin to sing. Cuckoos, chiff-chaffs, swallows and house-martins are tell-tale signs of spring. Think about what smells and sounds you'd be hearing.

Did you know that the soundtrack of the forest is an effective biodiversity monitoring tool?

Keep exploring...

Osprey catching fish
16 September 2021
The return of ospreys to Kielder is one of our most exciting and successful conservation stories.
Grizzled skipper butterfly on young leaves
25 June 2021
Find out the best places to spot butterflies and discover how we've been working to support them. 
Two juvenile white-tailed eagles playing in the sky
29 December 2020
We look back over the past year in photos for the white-tailed eagle project on the Isle of Wight.
close up of juvenile white-tailed eagle
25 November 2020
Read the latest update on the successful second release of white-tailed eagles on the Isle of Wight and find out what last year's cohort are up to.