Did you know?
- Several of the trees in Horsebridge Wood have bat boxes attached to them (for example, there are some by signpost 36). Although bats are protected species, they are suffering from habitat loss in Britain. They live in dead and hollow trees, but commercial forestry has destroyed many habitats that once offered suitable conditions. The bat boxes look like bird boxes but have an access slit at the base rather than a hole at the front. There are eight bat species at Wakehurst: pipistrelle, noctule, Daubenton’s bat, brown longed-eared bat, whiskered bat, Brandt’s bat, serotine and natterer’s bat.
- One of the giant redwood trees growing in Horsebridge wood was raised from seed collected from the ‘General Grant’, a giant redwood growing in King’s Canyon National Park, California. Named after Ulysses S. Grant, 18th president of the USA, it is the second largest tree in the world according to 2005 figures.
Before Christopher Colombus brought America to the West’s attention, the landmass was a vast primeval forest. Deciduous woodlands of oak, hickory and maple covered the east of North America, conifers extended across the north and west, while pines and swamp cypress thrived in the southeast. Florida and the Caribbean islands were inhabited by subtropical plants, such as coastal mangroves, palms, persimmons and evergreen oaks. After the Europeans arrived, however, the forests were cleared for timber and to make way for agriculture. Today, very little of the original woodlands survive.
Botanists classify North American forests into seven provinces according to the climate and dominant tree types. These are: Appalachian, populated by hickory, oak, maple and beech; Californian, home to the Monterey pine; Vancouverian, where the Pacific coastal region hosts giants of the tree world including coastal redwood and Douglas fir; Gulf and South Coast, whose poor soils suit pine forests; Rocky Mountain, where the mix of coniferous species changes with altitude; Canadian, whose harsh climate favours conifers with paper birch, quaking aspen and balsam polar; and the subtropical West Indian Province.
Things to look out for
At Horsebridge Wood, visitors can wander among trees from the first six of these provinces. As well as being planted in geographical zones, representing mini American forest habitats, the specimens are located at varying heights that reflect their relative positions in the wild. For example, the giant redwoods are planted higher up Wakehurst’s slopes than the coastal redwoods. One of the more unusual species visitors may encounter is the bristlecone fir (Abies bracteata), which has very long needles. Its range in the wild is now restricted to the Santa Lucia mountains in California.