Our Bluebell Wood and Lime Wood are wonderful, cool and shady spots for walking in the summer. They are the perfect place for a weekend stroll among the dappled sunlight, under a verdant canopy. Bluebell Wood, in particular, is barely recognisable to those visitors who saw the carpet of bluebells in the spring: in the summer months a thick maze of bracken dominates the space. Bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) is a pioneering plant that can thrive in a wide variety of conditions and has to be managed in many places where it out-competes other species. But bracken isn’t all bad. Historically it has been harvested as bedding, and even fodder, for livestock. It has been used as mulch to protect other plants or suppress weeds, and even as an alternative to peat (but it can also be toxic, so take care!).
Bracken plays an important role in our native woodland. It provides a favoured hunting ground for many small birds, and acts as shelter for small mammals and reptiles. During the summer it shades spring plants like bluebells and wood anemones from the summer sun, and when it dies back in winter, it can shelter these flowering plants from the harshest frosts.
When you step out of the native woodland into the Wildflower Meadows or the Acer Glade, take a moment to enjoy the fascinating shapes of the many seed pods that appear. In the meadow, vetch, yellow-rattle and sorrel all clatter and jangle with seeds. In the Acer Glade, Acer palmatum ssp. Matsumuae, Acer palmatum var. Heptalobum ‘Osakazuki’ and Acer tataricum ssp. ginnala are covered with colourful seeds.
August is the perfect month for a stroll along the Serpentine Ride. Bring a picnic and enjoy it among the shade of some of our tallest and most exotic trees. Marvel at the strange fruits, such as Magnolia campbellii ssp. mollicomata, Styrax hemsleyanus (Hemsley Snowball) and Magnolia tripetala in the Magnolia Glade. Along the Serpentine Ride the rhododendrons, Arbutus unedo (Killarney Strawberry Tree), Cornus mas and Halesia carolina ‘Rosea’ (Snowdrop Tree), all have interesting fruits and seed pods and the whole area is teaming with dragonflies.