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Spring cherry blossom family

What to look out for in spring

Spring is sprung at last, and that seemingly endless winter is finally over. As we emerge into longer, brighter days our forests come to life, providing a feast for your senses. 

The sights, sounds and smells of spring are signs of new life – but as you follow the important Government advice to stay safe and stay home, discover how the forest is coming alive at this beautiful time of year.

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.

We want to see your photos from last spring, before the lockdown! Share your signs of spring with #SpringingItBack

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...

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.
Large old tree with forest behind
27 November 2020
We caught up with Adrienne Bennett, our environment and heritage manager for central England, to discover how we are caring for our oldest trees.
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.
Putting out fire
26 October 2020
While some of us have continued to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic, many of our staff have continued to work on the forestry frontline. Our dedicated teams were challenged when, in May 2020, large areas of Wareham Forest were destroyed by a ferocious forest fire. This land was home to important wildlife, including rare birds, plants, reptiles and insects.  For two long weeks, fire tore through Wareham Forest. Tackled by over 150 fire fighters, supported by our local team, by the time it was under control it had destroyed over 220 hectares, totalling 15% of this special landscape. We hear from Graham Nottage, Beat Manager in the Dorset Forests team.