Willow trees donated to Heartwood Forest by Harpenden scientists
- Credit: Photo courtesy of Rothamsted Research
Willow scientists in Harpenden have selected nine species of the tree native to Britain to plant at St Albans’ Heartwood Forest and attract wildlife.
Volunteers at the Woodland Trust, a conservation charity, asked Rothamsted Research to help identify willow species to add to the 350-hectare forest.
According to a spokesman for the scientific centre, willows sold by plant nurseries are often hybrids rather than pure species, lacking the guarantee of UK origin that the trust, which manages Heartwood Forest in Sandridge, requires.
Scientists selected willows and made cuttings from a national collection at its base in Harpenden, which is one of the largest collections of willow in the world.
The Woodland Trust plans to harvest wood from the new plants, to show visitors how they are gown and used. Willows are also attractive to wildlife, particularly to birds and insects.
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Ian Shield, willow breeder at Rothamsted, said: “I am really pleased to be able to help out the Woodland Trust with this slightly tricky issue, and on a local project.
“The long history of the national willow colection, and the scrutiny it has come under from experts in the field allowed Rothamsted to provide examples of pure species of native willows.”
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A volunteer for the trust, Brian Legg, praised the scientists for giving advice on the species’ planting requirements and care.
He said it was ‘important’ that a 10-hectare aboretum, in which local volunteers have planted around 60 native species of trees and shrubs, included British willow.
Once fully planted, Heartwood Forest will be the largest newly planted continuous native forest in England. It already contains around 540,000 trees, with volunteers to plant another 60,000 over the next few years.