More often than not, we don't see the wood for the trees. Observing the plants of the forest floor – the flowers, ferns, sedges and grasses – can be a vital way of understanding the nature of British woodland.
For centuries, woodland plants have been part of our lives in practical ways, as food and medicines, and as the inspirations for poetry, perfume and pub signs. They tell us stories about the history of woodland, its past management, and how that has changed – not always for the better. They can also be a visible sign of progress when we get conservation right.
In this insightful and original account, Keith Kirby explores how woodland plants in Britain have come to be where they are, how they cope with living in the shade of their bigger relatives and tolerate the attentions of grazing herbivores, the challenges they face with changing conditions throughout the seasons, and how they respond to threats in the form of storms, fires, droughts and floods. Along the way, the reader is introduced to the work of important botanists who have walked the woods in the past, collecting information on where plants occur and why, while profiles of some of our most important and popular ground flora species provide extra detail and insight.
"[...] opening chapters are a helpful, non-technical exploration of the work of British ecologists, including John Rodwell, Oliver Rackham and George Peterken [...] along with our European and Irish neighbours. The book then becomes much more stimulating, even provocative, as Kirby explores the relationship of woodland floras with the modern age [...] There is much to enjoy in Keith Kirby’s writing style as his language is straightforward and accessible. [...]"
– Clive Chatters, British Wildlife, Volume 32(1), October 2020