Like anything else in the natural world, trees are happiest and healthiest in an environment that suits them. Over thousands of years, each species adapts to the soil type and weather conditions of its local environment, and it’s this balance that then ensures a woodland can grow and thrive.
The technical term is ‘local provenance’ – and saplings grown from local provenance seed are more likely to survive because they are in their natural habitat. But there are other benefits of staying native.
Reducing the number of imported trees helps prevent the spread of disease. And it reduces road miles, so it cuts out transport costs and reduces pollution.
That’s why planting the Heart of England Forest with native broadleaf trees, and growing them in our own nursery, is the best way of ensuring a continual supply of saplings.
The great news is that our nursery is thriving thanks to the hard work of a team of amazing volunteers. At the moment, about 20% of the new saplings we plant in the forest come from our nursery. It’s a great start, but we’d like to increase that to 100% over the next two years.
This summer, the team have been busy weeding, fertilising and watering our saplings in preparation for lifting them in the winter planting season. They’ve also been keeping a close watch over the seed beds to protect them from hungry wildlife, and checking for damage from both squirrels and mildew.
Next on the list of jobs is seed collection. The team will be out in the forest collecting acorns for planting in the nursery next spring. Other seeds like birch, hornbeam, alder, cherry and wild service are currently being brought in.
But, with more hands on deck, who knows how many species will be collected from the forest itself in coming years, and nurtured on-site in our ever-growing nursery.