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Woodland Wonders

Woodland Wanders - what to see in a spring wood - NatureTree

If you really want to see a celebration of springtime that will set the senses reeling, just take a walk through any of our deciduous woodlands. As the days gradually lengthen, plants begin to stir, quickly making the most of the available light before the 'curtain' is drawn once again by the heavy shade of foliage.

And so a spectacular kaleidoscope of colour begins as a host of shapes and scents suddenly springs from the seemingly lifeless woodland floor. It's an incredibly orchestrated display, where flowers of differing shapes and sizes follow one after another with all the timing of a well-sequenced firework display. But beyond their breath-taking beauty, these flowers are also providing a vital early food source for bees, butterflies and countless other insects.

The splashes of creamy yellow from our native wild daffodils, gently nodding in the springtime breeze, are one of the most encouraging signs that spring has truly arrived. Meanwhile, smaller plants such as lesser celandines make up for their diminutive size in sheer numbers and colour, bejewelling the woodland floor with bright, golden-yellow flowers. A beautiful carpet of creamy-white wood anemones soon follows.

In more open areas another emblem of British springtime unveils its dusky beauty - the primrose. The butter-coloured flowers huddle closely together, and amongst them you may also find delightful clusters of cowslips, a close relative. Little clumps of wood sorrel nestle in the nooks and crannies, distinguished by their bright green, clover-shaped leaves, above which sit dainty cream flowers.

Look out too for early-flowering violas such as the beautiful common dog-violet, with prettily marked blue-purple petals and heart-shaped leaves.

But it is, perhaps, the shimmering hazy drifts of blue that carpet the woodland floor which really capture the essence of the season - the sight of bluebells in full bloom has to be one of nature's most evocative springtime displays.

The discovery of an early-purple orchid is always a treat, with its distinctive spotted leaves and tall spike of deep-purple flowers (though occasionally pink and sometimes white variations occur).

As the days get warmer, the unmistakeable aroma of wild garlic fills the woodland air - as huge swathes of pungent green leaves and creamy star-like flowers carpet the ever-changing tapestry of the woodland floor once more.