Isabella Plantation, at 40 acres, is a popular woodland garden containing internationally important collections of ornamental trees and shrubs. It is part the Richmond Park Site of Special Scientific Interest and as such it is managed with wildlife in mind.
The diversity of the Plantation's woodland cover, ponds, streams, glades, bog and heather gardens helps to create a wide range of habitat for wildlife. Native plants commonly grow alongside exotics throughout the garden; its fringes and shelterbelts are planted with nectar and berrybearing trees and shrubs which provide food and shelter for a wealth of wildlife.
Wildlife records for Isabella Plantation show an impressive range of flora and fauna including over 40 species of fungi, more than 50 species of beetle and over 130 species of butterfly and moth. It is also home to over 70 species of bird and six species of bat.
Learn more about the biodiversity in Isabella Plantation's:
Fed from a natural supply of water pumped from Pen Ponds in the heart of Richmond Park, the ponds and streams are an important part of the diverse range of habitats available to wildlife and form part of the park's network of ponds, streams and open ditches, acting as important corridors for wildlife.
In 2013 a number of improvements were made to the Plantation's ponds and streams. Over 2,500m3 of accumulated silt was removed from all three ponds along with large numbers of carp to significantly improve water quality. Pond edges have been re-instated and additional native marginal and aquatic plants now provide varied habitats for a wider range of birds, bats and invertebrates. Peg's Pond has been extended and planted with reedbeds to help reverse the loss of this nationally scarce habitat.
Reedbeds provide improved cover for resident water birds and may also attract reed bunting and reed warbler and offer opportunities for threatened species such as bittern to use this site.
Although man-made, the Plantation's Heather Garden with its mix of Erica and Calluna cultivars seeks to mimic natural heathland. Heathers are allowed to grow without excessive pruning and are planted alongside native shrubs commonly associated with heathland such as gorse and broom. With so many flowering plants, there is a regular source of nectar for bumblebees, which are occasionally preyed upon by the hornet, Britain's largest wasp. Heathers also attract large numbers of butterflies, the brimstone butterfly can be seen in March and red admiral, comma and small copper can all been seen flying here in summer.
Bog Garden and Streams
Waterfalls and logs have been added to streams to alter and deflect flow and to encourage pooling and scouring. In some areas bank sections have been made shallower to provide entry points for small mammals and amphibians. Light levels have been increased by cutting back streamside azaleas and the invasive exotic skunk cabbage as well as the selective removal of the native marginal, royal fern. All of this has been aimed at maximising the potential of bogs and streams as habitats for wildlife.
The majority of Isabella's oak, beech and sweet chestnut woodland dates back to the Plantation's enclosure in 1831. There is also a healthy population of more than 25 veteran trees which pre-date this time. All of this native woodland cover provides the ideal conditions for a variety of wildlife.
The bird of prey, the sparrowhawk, can often be seen carrying out aerial attacks on smaller birds under the woodland canopy. Great spotted woodpeckers nest in the hollows of woodland trees and can be heard drumming high above. Treecreepers and nuthatch scale tree trunks feeding on the insects they find. Small mammals such as shrews come out at night and hunt insects and worms. The green oak roller caterpillar feeds on oak leaves and can be seen hanging from trees on silk threads in summer.
The shady humus rich soils of the woodland floor provide the ideal growing conditions for a wide range of native plants including bluebells, wood anemone and the green-flowered helleborine. Fungi are critical to the decay of plant, leaf and animal matter and the bracket like fruiting bodies on old birch or oak trunks betray the fungi feeding inside.
Dead or decaying wood, whether standing or fallen, is deliberately retained to provide habitat for birds, bats, wood rotting fungi and deadwood invertebrates.