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Plants and Trees

Image credit: Harry Jenkins

The specific location of the many and varied forms of plant and wildlife on the Meadows is dependent on the very diverse range of habitats reflecting the site’s river valley location. 

Habitats include:

  • Woodland – North Cray Wood, Alder Wood on the western bank of the River Cray, linear woodland along sections of the river corridor 

  • Plantations – small areas of relatively recent tree planting, throughout the site

  • Scattered trees – most notable the Lime and Sweet Chestnut avenues in Foots Cray Lawns.

  • Scrub – in various places which are dominated by bramble and shrubby willow.

  • Tall herbaceous vegetation – dominated by dock, nettles, cow parsley, nettles, false oatgrass, great willowherb, hedge bindweed and hogweed.

  • Wet tall vegetation – dominated by willow herb, nettle, great pond sedge, hemp agrimony and lesser burdock, with occasional angelica present.

  • Ponds – many ponds exist within the meadows, some in the designated wetland area, which have overgrown considerably. Ponds are full of wildlife and wetland plants, including dragonfly, damselflies, phantom midge, caddis flies in addition to newts, frogs and toads.

  • Grassland and fen – including Mitchell's field and riverside woodland- comprises a substantial area of neutral grassland.

Rare and notable plant species on the Meadows include flat sedge (extinct in London), brown sedge, marsh horsetail, square-stalked St John’s Wort, Black poplar, stream water crowfoot, pepper saxifrage, betony and devil’s-bit scabious. It is not clear if all these species survive to this day.

The challenge for plants within the river is to avoid being swept away. Some anchor their roots firmly in the riverbed while the likes of water crowfoot has streamlined stems and leaves to withstand the heavy flows. The areas where water crowfoot prevail are best places to look for banded demoiselles in the summer.

The river supports abundant aquatic vegetation throughout its length, including stream water crowfoot (as mentioned above), lesser water-parsnip, mare’s-tail and pink water-speedwell.

Alders and willows survive by the river and are good places to look for siskins in the winter. The Meadows themselves have over forty species of trees, including many varieties of the following, ash, birch, cedar, elm, hawthorn, laburnum, larch, lime, maples, oaks, pines, poplars, sycamore, sweet and horse chestnut, walnut, willows, yews, plus others that have been described elsewhere.

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