The oldest, largest and most noticeable inhabitants of Richmond Park are its trees. Richmond Park is a leading UK site for ancient trees, particularly oaks, which have great historic and ecological importance.
We have about 1,200 ancient trees, some of which pre-date the park's enclosure. The old English Oaks were traditionally managed by pollarding - a way of cutting back the crown of the tree above the reach of the deer to stimulate the growth of foliage and timber for harvesting.
These ancient trees host a diversity of fungi which help to create hollows and crevices that provide homes for a wide range of wildlife, from ants and beetles to birds and bats. Natural decay within standing trees and fallen timber supports many scarce and threatened invertebrates. Over 1,350 species of beetle have been recorded in Richmond Park, many of which depend on decaying wood. The list includes internationally threatened species such as the rusty click beetle, the cardinal click beetle and the stag beetle which, at up to 7cm long, is Britain's largest beetle. Stag beetle grubs (larvae) feed on decaying timber and need to be left undisturbed for between three to seven years before they pupate and emerge as adults.
In previous decades dead or rotting wood would have been 'tidied away', removing this important habitat. These days, we are very aware of the need to retain undisturbed standing and lying dead wood as part of the woodland ecosystem.