Wild Black Poplar (Populus nigra ssp. Betulifolia)
Wild Black Poplars are large trees with a thick, fissured trunk that have severely declined over the years, but can still be found in the north of Richmond Park and near to the Beverley Brook.
As part of the Richmond Biodiversity Action Plan, The Royal Parks have been working to protect, maintain and enhance the current population.
Hand pollination at Richmond Park took place a couple of years ago and the Royal Botanical Gardens Kew, Wakehurst Place, recently undertook genetic testing of 26 individual seedlings, which confirmed they are of true black poplar progeny. These are the first plants that have been grown from seed, instead of cuttings, from the park.
The seedlings are now being grown on for a couple of years in our nursery at Isabella Plantation until they are big enough to be planted out in the park, and also be protected from the grazing deer.
As part of the Mission Invertebrate Project, which is funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery, seven new scrapes were created across the park and an existing scrape was re-dug near to Pen Ponds Plantation last month.
Scrapes are shallow depressions in the ground with gently sloping edges, which may seasonally hold water. These features provide an important habitat for plant life and support a wide variety of aquatic, terrestrial and aerial invertebrates, including solitary bees and wasps, beetles, bugs and molluscs.
Scrapes can also provide important feeding areas for breeding wading birds and their chicks so keep an eye out for these scrapes and what may be using them, whilst you wander around the park.
Bracken management and harrowing
Bracken dominates large areas of the park and whilst it provides important cover for the deer and ground nesting birds, it also has the ability to smother more sensitive habitats such as the acid grassland.
The bracken is cut, rolled with horse-drawn bracken rollers or sprayed in the summer months to control its spread and to prevent a dominant monoculture of bracken from establishing across the park.
This month, the shire horses will be preparing some additional areas and harrowing the dead bracken around Ham Cross, Pen Ponds and Holly Lodge. The harrowing will reduce the volume and ensure the areas are clear of logs and stumps so these areas can also be added to the rolling programme this summer.
Veteran trees and protection
If you see wooden fencing or metal barriers erected around some of the ancient and veteran trees in the park, please respect it and do not climb or go inside it. The fencing has been erected to keep people safe from falling branches or tree collapse and to protect the tree and its root system from trampling and compaction of the ground. Please remember that any decaying timber left on the ground is also home to many species. Using any timber to build a den destroys this vital habitat and is also against Royal Park regulations.
Approximately 200 deer are born every year. In order to maintain a healthy and sustainable population of 600 red and fallow deer of mixed ages and sexes in Richmond Park, the female deer are selectively culled in November and the male deer are selectively culled in February.
The cull will begin on Monday 5 February for 6 weeks so please remember there will be no access to Richmond Park for cars, bicycles or pedestrians from 8pm to 7.30am each day.