Bluebells in sunshine

What to look out for in spring

Spring to life in the forest!

As we emerge from winter into longer, brighter days, the nation's forests provide a feast for your senses. As you head outside, explore the sights, sounds and smells of spring bringing new life.

Wood anenome in coppice at Westonbirt Arboretum

Bright flora

Woodlands are glorious at this time of year. A riot of colour spreads a blanket of wildflowers such as primrose, lesser celandine, wood anemone and bluebells.

Among the earliest woodland flowers are wood anemones. They create a stunning carpet of white stars across areas of the forest floor, which look every bit as beautiful as the sea of bluebells that comes later. They really are cheerful too, the flowers turn their heads to follow the sun! Wood anemones spread through roots rather than seed, so are a good indicator of ancient woodland.

Later in spring, another ancient woodland indicator covers the forest floor - native bluebells. The sweetly-scented bell-shaped flowers droop off of delicate stalks later in the season.

Wild garlic in spring

What's that smell?

Take a deep breath and fill your nostrils with the heady smell of wild garlic!

Green foliage and sprays of tiny white flowers mark this wonderful plant, also known as ramsons, which can be found in woodlands across the country.

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Ash tree bud bursting into leaf

New buds on trees

Tree buds remain dormant throughout winter, but the spring sunlight triggers the ‘budbreak’. Buds contain a cell that 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, changing carbon dioxide and water into sugars which 'feed' the tree.

Photo credit: Simon Bound

Wildlife emerges

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

Butterflies to look out for in spring are the brimstone, comma, peacock, small tortoiseshell and red admiral. These species overwinter as adults, so you may spot them fluttering about in woodlands in early spring.

Ponds fill with frogs looking to mate and lay 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!

Close your eyes in your favourite forest and listen to the canopy above you. How many different calls can you hear? Chiffchaffs are a tell-tale sign of spring, arriving with their "chiff-chaff chiff-chaff" call.

The sound of the dawn chorus is a real joy of spring. Peaking in May, birds will sing loudly to defend their territory and attract a mate in the breeding season. The best time to enjoy this phenomenon in all its glory is before sunrise on a clear day with low winds. 

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