Skip to main content

On the high peaks of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) and on the Glyderau there grows a forest that is little more than a foot high. A forest of Juniper Juniperus communis subsp. nana nestled among the rocks in the crags and crevices. They are everywhere, if you look in the right places, creeping through the thin turf and sprawling over rocks.

 

Where can you find Wales’ Juniper forests?

If you scramble over the jagged ridges of Crib Goch and Crib Y Ddisgl you will find them. On Esgair Felen they tumble down the cliffs and on the upper reaches of the Watkin Path you will be walking through the middle of this ‘coedwig fach’ (little forest). Y Lliwedd, one of the satellite peaks of Yr Wyddfa, holds the largest of these forests and here you can’t fail to notice them, although you may not realise they are trees.

Their twisted and gnarled trunks keep close to the ground, bonsaied by the cold and the wind in the exposed locations in which they grow. These small trees are glacial relics from a time between the ice ages, like many of our Arctic – Alpine species.

They are clinging on literally for dear life in the least accessible locations in our mountains where they find refuge from the goats and the sheep and the deep time history of clearance of our mountain woodlands.

These Juniper plants, alongside Dwarf Willown Salix repens, are the fragmented upper reaches of a special type of woodland that has almost disappeared from the mountains of Eryri.

A woodland of low growing scrubby willows, junipers and other ‘Krummholz’ trees and shrubs. ‘Krummholz’ is a German word that is used to describe dwarfed gnarled trees that push high into the mountains to eke out their existence in a tangled and contorted state.

 

Protecting the foot high forests

This scrubby, fairy woodland would have once spread from about 450 metres in altitude, the natural treeline, almost to the summits of Eryri. Elsewhere in Britain it is found in the Scottish Highlands and there are fragments of it in the Lake District. It still just about exists here in Wales on the edges and ledges where people and grazers have never ventured.

The trees of Eryri are under recorded, with limited records of trees in the high mountains, so there is still so much more to understand about these sky-high forests.

Recently, whilst out climbing, I discovered a tree species I was not expecting on a ledge, a Bird Cherry Prunus padus. The discovery of this cherry links our mountain woodlands even more directly to those of Scotland where Bird Cherry is a common feature.

Read more about the work Natur am Byth! is doing through the Tlysau Mynydd Eryri project to better understand these tiny but fascinating forests, alongside Bangor University.

The importance of the coedwig fach in Cymru

Restoration of this mosaic of alpine woodland comes with great benefits. This habitat is ecologically vital, for invertebrates’ montane trees and shrubs are particularly important and many of these woody species support high diversity of endemic ectomycorrhizal fungi. Additionally, mountain woodland habitat and willow scrub can provide protection against extreme weather for rare tall herb and alpine plant communities which would otherwise be exposed and struggle to persist in alpine environments.

The increasing diversity enabled by these wooded upland communities has positive impacts for small mammals and birds such as Ring Ouzel. Succession in these wooded habitats builds soil organic matter through their leaf litter. These woodlands reduce erosion by building these soils and halt water runoff which reduces the impacts of flooding.

So, if you are planning a trip up Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) any time soon, keep an eye open for the forest you are walking through and take a moment to stop and think about what the mountains may have looked like before their woodlands almost disappeared, the other species that were lost with them and the way they could look again.

Our work in Wales

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow
Wildflower meadow landscape with a variety of species near Cardiff, Wales

How to Grow a Wildflower Meadow

Whether it’s your back garden, local park, community field or lawn, wildflower meadows are amazing spaces with so much to offer.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.

The nodding yellow heads of spring-flowering daffodils are now our most recognisable symbol of St David’s Day; indeed, they’re a symbol of Wales itself. However, daffodils are relative newcomers to this scene, dating only to the 19th century as an emblem for the country. The Leek, however, has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself, who is thought to have died in the year 589.

The History of the Wild Leek in Wales

Legend describes how Welsh soldiers were ordered to identify themselves by wearing a Leek on their helmet, as they fought the Saxons in the north of England and the Midlands, under the command of King Cadwaladr of Gwynedd.

As with all such oral histories so long and so widely told, there are many different variations of this legend; however, the long presence of the Leek across many centuries of Welsh history is undeniable.

Most of us now think of Leeks as the large, cultivated vegetable we see in supermarkets – not at all suitable for attaching to a helmet in battle! However their genus, Allium, also contains a number of species that are either native, or ancient introductions to Britain. These have a far lengthier heritage than the domesticated vegetable, and would have been growing in north Wales at the time of both King Cadawladr and St David.

One of these is Allium ampeloprasum var. ampleoprasum, a variety of the Wild Leek that still grows today in Anglesey. It is a large plant, growing up to 2m high, with a dense spherical flowerhead of pink-purple flowers. This would certainly have made a distinctive and plausible addition a soldier’s helmet. Could this be the real Leek of Welsh legend?

 

Has Wild Leek always been found in Wales?

Wild Leek isn’t actually native to Britain – but it’s one of the archaeophytes, meaning that it was introduced by humans long ago – perhaps by traders, hundreds of years before the time of St David. It’s likely that it would have been grown and valued by the people of north Wales for its nutritional and medical properties.

Wild Leek on Angelsey

Evidence for this can be found in The Red Book of Hergest (c. 1375-1425). This is one of the most important books ever written in Welsh, and it is a compilation of mythology, poetry, and chronicles of the time. It includes contemporary medical texts, which name Leeks in many recipes for treatments and cures.

The regular appearance of Leeks in other, later texts also suggests that the plants were quite readily available to the people of Wales. They must have been much more common than they are today.

The Future of the Wild Leek

Sadly, Wild Leek is now considered at risk of extinction in Wales, with small populations remaining only on Anglesey, and on Steep Holm and Flat Holm islands. However, a healthy population is held in cultivation by Plantlife Cymru’s Robbie Blackhall-Miles.

This will help to secure the long-term safety of this now rare species in Wales. Given its fascinating and long association with the communities of Wales, possibly even St David himself – this is surely to be celebrated- especially on St David’s Day.

More ways to learn about wild plants and fungi

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Hazel Gloves Fungus is a priority species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, learn more about this rainforest fungi this Reverse the Red month.

Protecting Waxcaps: All the Losses We Cannot See…

Protecting Waxcaps: All the Losses We Cannot See…

Britain’s waxcap grasslands are considered to be the best in Europe. Discover the pressures these colourful fungi and their habitats face…

Hazel Gloves Fungus’ common name comes from the finger-like projections of the stromata, cushion-like plate of solid mycelium. Found on Hazel trees in Britain, it is actually parasitic on the Glue Crust fungus Hymenochaete corrugate, and not the Hazel tree itself.

It was incredibly exciting to find Hazel Glove fungus. I knew about its importance as a rainforest indicator species and also its rarity status. I had seen many photos of it and so when I turned to take a second look at something I saw in the corner of my eye, I knew at once what it was.

I couldn’t share my unbridled joy at my discovery with anyone else in that moment, unless you include telling the singing Dipper I had just spotted or indeed talking to myself about it as I walked back along the trail. However, I was able to capture that moment on camera to relive again.

What does finding Hazel Gloves Fungus tell us?

Hazel Glove fungus is an indicator of good air quality and temperate rainforest conditions, making it a flagship species for this threatened habitat. Temperate rainforests are found in areas that are influenced by the sea, with high rainfall and humidity and damp climate.

They are home to some intriguing and sometimes rare bryophytes, plants and fungi. Plantlife are working in many ways to protect and restore this globally threatened habitat. 

Fungi need you to find them!

I have since sent in my record to the county fungi recorder with a 10 figure grid reference, only to discover that this species has not been officially recorded in that area before, which only heightened my sense of achievement.

Recording fungi and sending your finds to local wildlife recorders creates a more accurate picture of the wild and wonderful world around us – and helps people like us know where to target conservation efforts.

It’s estimated that more than 90% of fungi are unknown to science, and only 0.4% of the fungi we know about have enough data to be assessed for global conservation status – letting us know if they’re critically endangered or not.

Learn more about fungi

The Wildlife in our Meadows
Duke of Burgundy butterfly on cowslip.

The Wildlife in our Meadows

From bumblebees to birds and moths to mammals – meadows are micro-cities of wildlife. Here's what to spot in your wildflower meadow.

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Finding Hazel Gloves Fungus: Why Recording Matters

Hazel Gloves Fungus is a priority species on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, learn more about this rainforest fungi this Reverse the Red month.

Protecting Waxcaps: All the Losses We Cannot See…

Protecting Waxcaps: All the Losses We Cannot See…

Britain’s waxcap grasslands are considered to be the best in Europe. Discover the pressures these colourful fungi and their habitats face…

“Lichens are cool because they are everywhere. Once you notice them, you realise they are crazy, weird, colourful and interesting.”

Rob Hodgson started his lichen journey in lockdown as a complete beginner. Walking around Bristol one day, a lichen peaked his interest and from then on he was gripped by these secret miniature forests.

As an illustrator, Rob has created dynamic and lifelike lichen characters to help more people starting out.

We went to chat to Rob and join him on a lichen hunt.

Man looking at a tree for lichens

What’s it like as a lichen beginner?

“It was kind of my lockdown project and I just got interested one day, like what is this crazy thing. When I first started looking at lichens, you go online and there’s a million Latin names and I was just like, no this isn’t for me – I’m not a lichen expert. But once you learn the common names and you start to spot different ones, it gets easier. You don’t have to go anywhere far away, you can see these things just on the street. There’s one called chewing Chewing Gum lichen that you can see everywhere once you tune into it, just on the pavement.

Where are all these lichens?

“You do definitely notice if you go to the countryside, it’s like a lichen explosion. But I live in the centre of Bristol pretty much and there’s still lichens everywhere. On my doorstep, you see them on the pavements, you see them on walls and in my local parks there’s loads of lichens.

It’s a really good time of year to go lichen hunting [autumn/winter] and you don’t need any stuff. You can just go and as soon as you get out of the house you are on a lichen hunt – that’s as easy as it is. You just need to look on the floor, look in the tress and you’re good to go.

Let’s meet the lichen characters…

Rob Hodgson looking for lichens on a wall

How did you make the lichen characters?

“The way I work things out sometimes is through my work. When I was looking at lichens, I thought how can I make this more interesting than all of these super technical, botanical drawings. I drew one, and then once you notice one, you notice another, and then all of sudden I had drawn 20 different lichens.

There was a lot of back and forth between going out and looking at lichens and going back and modifying them.

That was where I was coming from, trying to make them fun and accessible.”

 

Rob has made beautifully designed lichen characters including dust lichen, shield lichen and oak moss. Follow him on social media here.

The 28th UN Climate Conference of Parties has just drawn to a close in Dubai, during which there had been fierce negotiations over the future of fossil fuels.

In the early hours of this morning the gavel went down and 198 governments agreed to “transitioning away from fossil fuels in energy systems, in a just, orderly and equitable manner… so as to achieve net zero by 2050 in keeping with the science”. This wording is not as strong as we had hoped, but it is the first time fossil fuels have ever been explicitly mentioned in a final agreement (in almost 30 years of climate COPs) and as the UN Climate Chief Simon Stiell said, it is the ‘beginning of the end’ for fossil fuels.

This issue is at the heart of climate action and this agreement was long overdue.

COP28 in Dubai

What else was decided?

There are other key outcomes from this COP which give us reasons for hope:

  • The first ever Global Stock Take includes references to the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework – the link between biodiversity loss and the climate crisis and ‘protecting, conserving and restoring nature…’ using not only science but Indigenous Peoples knowledge.
  • The newly established Loss and Damage fund, which if you will recall was implemented on the very first day of the conference, making it an historic moment. This fund now sits at $792 million which will go to developing nations in need, recognising that they have been most affected by climate impacts.
  • The Global Goal on Adaptation, designed to “ensure an adequate adaptation response” to protect people, livelihoods and ecosystems, talks about the multi-stakeholder approach to adaptation needed, using knowledge from different sectors of society.

Successes for biodiversity, food and farming

More specifically focused on the intertwined climate and nature crises, we welcome two new initiatives coming out of this COP.

1.COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action

The acknowledgement and recognition of the adverse impacts of climate change on agriculture and food systems, and on billions of people including smallholders that are dependent on their resilience for food and livelihoods, is a great step in the right direction. Just two years ago, there was little or no mention of this issue, yet 158 governments endorsed the Declaration at COP28.

2. COP28 Joint Statement on Climate, Nature and People 

This was an absolutely vital step in ensuring the climate and biodiversity crises are no longer considered as separate issues. We have known for a long time that they are fundamentally and intrinsically linked, and this is the first step in connecting the outcomes of the UNFCCC COP28 and the recently adopted Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

This announcement was made: ‘At COP28 during Nature, Land Use and Ocean Day, we affirm that there is no path to fully achieve the near- and long-term goals of the Paris Agreement or the 2030 goals and targets of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework without urgently addressing climate change, biodiversity loss and land degradation together in a coherent, synergetic and holistic manner, in accordance with the best available science.’

Eighteen governments have endorsed this declaration so far and we need to see many more signing up to this joined-up approach in the weeks ahead.

bird standing in a field of grass

We’re going to keep talking about grasslands

At Plantlife, we work tirelessly to bring the value of grasslands to the forefront of conversations around farming, nature, biodiversity and climate, both in the UK and internationally. Covering more than half the Earth’s land surface and with the livelihoods of around 800 million people depending on them, the importance of grasslands and savannahs cannot be underestimated.

More generally, this COP marked a turning point for the role of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition of their contribution in not only safeguarding 80% of the world’s biodiversity, but their knowledge in living in true harmony with nature. Adopting this way of thinking will be a pivotal step in combating the climate crisis. Plantlife is aware of the importance of Indigenous knowledge particularly when it comes to Important Plant Areas (IPAs), with one of the criteria for identification being related to cultural significance.

You can read more about IPAs here specifically the Chiquitano people of Bolivia who identified 18 IPA sites to protect the Chiquitano dry forest which many of the community depend on for their food and livelihoods.

It is safe to say there was a healthy dose of concern and scepticism about this COP. What would come out of it? Would this be ambitious enough to secure a safe future for generations to come – from large cities in the Global North to the Small Island Developing States on the frontline of the climate crisis? The reference to fossil fuels and the language in the final text can be considered a win, but now we look to parties to solidify the ‘how’ and the ‘when’ of implementing the measures to ensure we stay at or below 1.5 degrees of warming.

One thing is crystal clear: we are at a pivotal moment, for the stability of our planet and all life on Earth, and Plantlife will keep working to show how wild plants and fungi can be at the heart of the solution.

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet
Yellow flowers of Bog Asphodel among grass and other bog plants.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet

Extraction of peat for gardening and horticulture continues to damage wildlife and our climate, despite government commitments to phase it out. Plantlife is calling on governments and industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture to benefit nature and our climate. 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

As I write this, I’m eating a piece of toast. As you read this, you may be eating something too. All 8.1 billion of us need food. Just like other types of consumption, such as oil and gas, our food consumption requires and releases energy. In fact, the food system is responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gas emissions caused by humans.

two brown cows grazing in a field

Why we’re all talking about food

It therefore makes sense that food is a central focus of the climate Conference of the Parties (CoP28) taking place at the moment in Dubai.

The CoP28 theme today is ‘Food and Agriculture’, which is a good opportunity to put down my toast and highlight some of the food and agriculture discussions at CoP28, and what they mean for wild plants and fungi.

Wild plants and fungi – not just for lunch, but for climate

We rely on wild plants and fungi for so much, however they are the overlooked centrepieces at the heart of all ecosystems.

Take grasslands: the livelihoods of around 800 million people depend on them and they cover more than 50% of the world’s land.

Imagine nomadic reindeer herders navigating the Steppes in Mongolia, or small-scale pastoralists grazing their livestock on Kenyan savannahs. Humans are part of a virtuous Venn diagram, with grasslands at the centre:

  • food is produced from the livestock
  • the livestock provide the grazing needed to maintain a balanced grassland ecosystem
  • the healthy ecosystem stores carbon and is also more resilient to the impacts of climate change
Small square hay bailer in field

But not all agriculture is equal…

It’s important to differentiate this approach to grassland management from the more intensive farming, that shatters the mutualistic relationship between people and the natural environment.

Intensive, large-scale agriculture relies on greenhouse gas-emitting synthetic fertilisers and ploughing, with tightly packed livestock damaging the sensitive flora and degrading the soil.

That’s why we’re looking to world leaders at CoP28 to recognise the value of healthy grasslands and savannahs as part of a sustainable food system, that helps boost biodiversity and tackle climate change.

We need joined-up action across governments and their policies tackling farming, food security, public health, nature & net zero.

CoP28 announcement

At CoP28, 134 countries have signed up to the United Arab Emirates Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, committing to integrate food into their climate plans by 2025.

This could be an important step towards real action to bring down emissions from global agriculture, in tandem with supporting farmers, pastoralists, and smallholders who farm in a low-carbon way.

However, alongside real action there’s also real risk – of greenwashing. We should be sceptical of subsidies that still go towards funding intensive agriculture, or untested technological solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

We’ll be watching how governments put this Declaration into practice.

Food for thought

Of course, it remains to be seen whether governments will make tangible commitments to actually shift food production away from intensive agricultural practices.

Will governments stop harmful agricultural subsidies and instead pay and support less intensive farming, that helps restore swathes of degraded grassland?

Will they ignore the huge farming and fertiliser lobby to help farmers break free from costly input cycles?

Will the rights of indigenous people and local communities to their land and traditional pastoralism be respected?

We want the protection, sustainable management, and restoration of healthy grasslands to be meaningfully incorporated into countries’ climate and biodiversity strategies.  

As I finish my meal, these are the questions I will ponder ahead of CoP28’s final few days. The solutions to the climate and biodiversity crises are by no means bitesize, but I have hope, if we’re all sat together at the same table. 

Jo Riggall

How to Start a Community Meadow?

How to Start a Community Meadow?

Want to start a community meadow, but not sure where to begin? Read our guide to creating a flower-filled haven for your local community.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet
Yellow flowers of Bog Asphodel among grass and other bog plants.

Peat-free horticulture for plants, people and planet

Extraction of peat for gardening and horticulture continues to damage wildlife and our climate, despite government commitments to phase it out. Plantlife is calling on governments and industry to end the use of peat in gardening and horticulture to benefit nature and our climate. 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Thanks to its association with Christmas, and its appearance on cards and decorations, Mistletoe is probably one of our most recognised native species. This association also means that the ‘kissing plant’ is also harvested in huge volumes each year for seasonal decorations. That tradition probably derives from a long history of use in ritual, which may have started with Celtic druids.

It’s seen variously as a symbol of fertility, love, and peace across European cultures. However, the kissing tradition itself appears to have developed more recently, perhaps in the 18th century.

More about Mistletoe

But what of the plant in the wild? Although it has a widespread distribution in the UK, it is quite rare in many areas. Its greatest abundance is strongly clustered around the Welsh-English border areas.

In fact, it’s also the county flower of Herefordshire, where you can find our Joan’s Hill Farm Nature Reserve. Here, it is strongly associated with the area’s fruit orchards, although it grows on a wide range of deciduous trees such as poplars and limes as well as orchard species.

The life of a parasitic plant

Mistletoe is an ‘obligate hemi-parasite’ of the trees on which it grows: that is, it doesn’t just grow on trees as a physical host. It actually can’t survive without the biological symbiosis it has with the host tree, although it does also photosynthesise. So how does that relationship work?

Mistletoe produces seeds in white berries – itself unusual, being our only native plant with truly white berries. The seeds are spread through the landscape by birds, such as thrushes (via their droppings) and Blackcaps (which move seeds mechanically on their bodies).

Both routes allow seeds to stick to new tree hosts, where if the location is suitable, they germinate. The young emerging seedlings are photosynthetic, and so at this early stage they are not dependent on the tree.

As the seedlings grow, some shoots penetrate the bark of the tree and connect with the tissue beneath- the beginnings of the parasitic relationship. In the plant’s first year, its connections with the tree’s tissues already provide it with water and crucial mineral nutrients.

It’s only then, over the following few years, that the plant very slowly begins to grow. Mistletoe is a long-lived perennial.

How does parasitism work?

Parasitism is a form of symbiosis where one partner benefits at the expense of the other. Mistletoe thrives on account of the tree, but the reverse is not true. If a tree has a lot of Mistletoe, it can eventually affect the tree quite severely, impeding growth, and for example, making it more susceptible to drought as a result of water loss.

Parasitism has evolved multiple different times across the plant world. The largest flower in the world, Rafflesia arnoldii, is the flower of a parasite. There is a parasitic conifer, Parasitaxus usta, that grows in New Caledonia, and Hydnora africana looks like it comes from a scifi movie.

Discover more parasitic plants in the UK

In the UK we have a wealth of parasitic and hemi parasitic plants that gain nutrients directly from other plants as well as a whole bunch of plant species that rob their nutrients either fully or partially from fungi.

  • We have 21 different species of eyebright, Euprasia, in the UK. Some, like Euphrasia cambrica, (pictured) are found here and nowhere else in the world. The beauty of eyebright flowers is best viewed with a hand lens. Some eyebright species can be seen in abundance during the summer at nature reserves such as Caeau Tan y Bwlch in North Wales. Here you can find rare Euphrasia monticola alongside thousands of Greater Butterfly Orchids.
  • If you happen to be in your local supermarket carpark it is worth looking out for the newly described variety of broomrape, Orobanche minor heliophila. This variety of Orobanche minor was only recognised in the UK in 2020. This plant is only found growing with a shrub from New Zealand that is often planted in carparks called Brachyglottis × jubar ‘Sunshine’.
  • We have two species of toothwort here too – one, Lathraea squamaria, is native and associates with Hazel trees; the other, Lathraea clandestine, was introduced as a garden plant and will happily parasitise several different trees and shrubs without doing them any serious harm.
  • Yellow Rattle, Rhinanthus minor (the meadow maker) is a hemi parasite and we use this feature in wildflower meadows to reduce the vigour of grasses and benefit the other plants. Its relative is Rhinanthus angustifolius is now very rare in the UK. Eyebrights, cow wheats, louseworts and bartsias also serve the same role as yellow rattles in meadows and woodlands.
  • We have 14 different species of broomrape many of which only associate with a single, or a very small number of, host species. Broomrapes are spectacular plants and rival many of our terrestrial orchids for beauty – it’s worth going out and trying to see some of them. The easiest ones to find are probably Ivy Broomrape or Common Broomrape
  • Possibly the most vampire-like parasitic plants we have in the UK are the dodders, Cuscuta. Three species of dodder are found here, two are native and one is introduced. When they germinate, they can ‘sniff out’ their host plant species which they then twine around before the penetrate the hosts stems to extract nutrients with haustorium – rootlike structures that absorb water or nutrients from the host.
  • Many orchids like Neottia nidus-avis, the Bird’s-nest Orchid, and heather relatives such as Monotropa hypopitys, the Dutchmans Pipe (pictured), extract all their nutrients from fungi without providing anything back to their host. This is a type of parasitism called myco-heterotrophy.

Learn more about plants

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters
Small square hay bailer in field

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters

One of the most important discussions at COP28 is about – food and agriculture. Find out why they are so important for global governments.

Since the 1930s, 97% of wildflower meadows across England and Wales have disappeared due to pressures from intensive agriculture and development. 

We want to go beyond caring for the 3% that are left.  

The Meadow Makers project will work with landowners to restore and create, as well as monitor and manage, 100 hectares of species-rich meadows over the next 15 years. 

We’ve received a record-breaking £8million from National Highways to restore meadows, from Dartmoor to north Yorkshire, to help people nature and wildlife.  

Why do our meadows need saving? 

Meadows and species-rich grasslands are magnificent, in many ways. They are extraordinary ecosystems, with native wild plants at their heart.

Species richness in grasslands can significantly improve carbon storage in the soil, which is a vital tool for addressing the climate crisis. They also have fungal networks covering thousands of miles, can be home to up to 140 species of wildflowers, provide flood mitigation and provide nutrient-rich grazing for livestock.

Meadow in north Wales

140 

Species of wildflower can be found in a single meadow 

100  

Hectares of meadow will be restored and created 

160 

Insects are supported by the food plant Common Bird’s-foot Trefoil alone 

 

Over the next 15 years, seven sites – six in Devon and one in North Yorkshire – will undergo significant grassland restoration with our team of meadow specialists. 

Every meadow is home to different species and habitats. This project will require unique care to allow the meadows to bloom wilder than ever. 

How we’re restoring 100 hectares of meadow: 

Meadow on Dartmoor

In Dartmoor 

  • Re-introducing an annual hay cut and grazing regime, allowing wildflowers to bloom and set seed 
  • Tackling species which threaten rare and native meadow specialists, through methods such as Bracken control 
  • Sewing local seeds to increase the floral biodiversity 
  • Testing the soil to inform future work, vital for our team of specialists 
  • Caring for Rhos Pasture, a rare species-rich meadow featuring Purple Moor-grass and rushes 
Brush harvester at Beechwood

On the North York Moors

  • Re-introducing an annual hay cut and grazing regime, allowing wildflowers to bloom and set seed 
  • Managing pastures better for biodiversity 
  • Increasing the number of wildflowers through the spreading of green hay and locally sourced seed  
  • Tackling species which threaten rare and native meadow specialists 

The Meadow Makers project will contribute towards our goal of restoring 100,000 hectares of species-rich grassland by 2040. 

Three Hagges Woodmeadow is a 10-hectare reserve near York, and an incredible example of woodmeadow habitat which hosts an abundance of plants and invertebrates. Visitors can connect with nature among native British trees such as Small Leaved Lime Tilia cordata and Hazel Corylus avellana, which grow alongside some of our most iconic meadow species such as Ox-eye Daisy Leucanthemum vulgare and Lady’s Bedstraw Galium verum.

What is a woodmeadow?

Spring wildflowers growing in a woodland

Woodmeadows, or wooded meadows, are species-rich hay meadows with stands of trees – an ancient form of combining agricultural meadows with forestry. Three Hagges Woodmeadow is a patchwork of woodlands, copse and wildflower meadows, including a lowland wet meadow and a lowland dry meadow.

Woodmeadows are ‘habitat mosaics’, comprising of lots of ‘messy edges’ which support a huge variety of homes for wildlife. Long established woodmeadows can support extraordinary levels of botanical diversity, with some ancient European examples supporting 70+ plant species per square metre.

Paul Rowland, Conservation Land Manager:

Why are nature reserves important?

‘Nature reserves offer islands of sanctuary for wildlife that’s under ever-increasing pressure from human activity and climate change. Plantlife’s work aims to not only provide robust and dynamic habitats for plants, fungi and their associated birds, animals and invertebrates to thrive, but also to extend their influence beyond their boundaries.

Nature reserves can and must be more than just islands. Our green spaces can provide sanctuary for us too – through wellbeing, education and the more sustainable production of healthy food.

Three Hagges Woodmeadow provides Plantlife with a unique opportunity, in our suite of nature reserves, in that it is a restored habitat on a site that was previously used for intensive agriculture. We will enhance the wood and grassland habitats here to help nature flourish and to provide opportunities for people to learn about, enjoy, contribute to and be rewarded by a beautiful environment that’s rich in plants and fungi.’

Expanding our network of reserves is important for nature, as it allows us to use the wealth of expertise within Plantlife to help green spaces thrive.

Recent work on our reserves has included planting fruit trees to benefit an ancient orchard landscape and the rare beetles that call them home as well as managing meadows to help Butterfly Orchids bloom in record numbers.

Welcoming a new reserve is a transformational moment in Plantlife’s history. It presents us with a unique opportunity to deliver our ambition to protect and restore wild plants and fungi, in meadows and woodlands for communities across the UK.

Ian Dunn, Plantlife’s CEO shares his excitement as we celebrate our 24th reserve:

“We were absolutely delighted to have been chosen by the Woodmeadow Trust to become the new guardians of their activities and assets. We are thrilled to be the new custodians of Three Hagges Woodmeadow and wider woodmeadow work moving forward and consider the combination to be a major contributor to Plantlife’s ambition for delivering a world rich in plants and fungi.”

Our Reserves

Lugg Meadow Nature Reserve
A delicate checkered purple Snakes Head Fritillary flowerhead drooping over grass

Lugg Meadow Nature Reserve

Lugg Meadow is best known for its spectacular displays of fritillaries in spring, and it's rare Lammas floodplain meadow habitat.

Three Hagges Woodmeadow Nature Reserve
A roundhouse surrounded by wildflower meadow and small trees

Three Hagges Woodmeadow Nature Reserve

Three Hagges Woodmeadow is Plantlife’s newest reserve in Yorkshire. Discover more about the reserve and how to visit.

Deep Dale Nature Reserve
Early Purple Orchids at Deep Dale

Deep Dale Nature Reserve

The nature reserve, located in the Peak District national Park, is filled with colour from the wild plants and flowers spreading over the hill side.

Natur am Byth! is a cross-taxa partnership, which means many different organisations are working together to save a variety of species – from insects and plants to birds. This is important as  when any species is lost from an ecosystem, it can make the whole ecosystem weaker and less able to cope with change, regardless of what kind of species it is.

One element the Natur am Byth programme focuses on is the mini-wonders of the Welsh Marches. The area has a rich diversity of mosses and liverworts, lichens, fungi and insects. These species all have one thing in common: they are generally pretty tiny. Many people just aren’t looking closely enough to spot them –and that’s what we want to change.

Why it’s important to find and record rare lichens

But before we can get started protecting rare species, we need to know where we’re currently at. ‘Baseline monitoring’ gives us a picture of how our target species, and the sites where they exist, are doing – we can then use this data to plan how we’ll manage those areas for nature. We can also track how these species recover in the future.

A bushy brown lichen

So, I went out to some very beautiful sites in Mid-Wales, hunting for some of the project target lichen species. This is what I found

  • The bushy brown Bryoria fuscecens lichen, which were dangling down in hairy
  • The Circumspect Dot lichen which is only known from 6 trees in Wales
  • The Geranium Firedot lichen, with tiny bright orange fruiting bodies set amongst a crust of pistachio green granules

What I discovered during a day of lichen hunting:

Lichen hunting can be like looking for a needle in a haystack – except the needle is as small as a pinhead, and the haystack is a woodland.

I got rained on heavily, I got lost hunting for trees, I had to shoo away cattle who were trying to eat my notebook, and I spent far too long peering through my hand lens checking every gnarly nook and cranny for some of these miniscule marvels.

At times I felt like I was living in that miniature kingdom. I’d come across insects and die of fright thinking they were enormous, and I’d pull my eye away from the hand lens only to be dizzied by the astonishing complexity of the enormous world we occupy.

An old oak tree in a woodlands

It has been a joy working to collect the data which can be used to demonstrate that the Natur am Byth project is having a positive impact and supporting these species.

Not only does the project have the potential to support these rare lichens with recovery, it also has the potential to change perceptions – magnifying the hidden worlds we overlook daily and showcasing the rare and special mini wonders that occupy them

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Juniper on the Peaks: A Foot High Forest 

Discover the gnarled woodlands on the wildest peaks in Wales, as Robbie Blackhall-Miles reveals the secrets of Eryri’s miniature but magical Juniper forests.

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

Why the Wild Leek is a Symbol of Wales

The Wild Leek has been a symbol of Wales for so long that its stories date back to St David himself.

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters
Small square hay bailer in field

COP28: Why Food and Farming Matters

One of the most important discussions at COP28 is about – food and agriculture. Find out why they are so important for global governments.

The Natur am Byth partnership is Wales’ flagship Green Recovery project. It unites nine environmental charities with Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to deliver the country’s largest natural heritage and outreach programme to save species from extinction and reconnect people to nature. Thanks to players of the National Lottery over £4.1m from the Heritage Fund was awarded to the partnership in June 2023. NRW has contributed £1.7m and the Natur am Byth partners have secured a further £1.4m from Welsh Government, Arts Council of Wales and a number of charitable trusts, foundations and corporate donors. These include donations from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, and significant support from Welsh Government’s Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme administered by Wales Council for Voluntary Action (WCVA).