There are many different tree species to be found in the New Forest ranging from the common English oak, ash and beech to more exotic species such as Wellingtonia, sweet chestnut and Japanese cedar.
The New Forest also contains many lovely old trees that are reaching 200-300 years in age. Such trees include oak, beech, yew and holly and most are concentrated in the ancient and ornamental woodlands, although some can also be found within the inclosures.
These trees were not planted, but have grown naturally, and whilst man has influenced their numbers through selective felling (many oaks were cut for shipbuilding), there are still many that can be found across the forest, including a few particularly well known oaks.
- see picture on the right
This is perhaps the most famous of all the New Forest trees, and has been a visitor attraction since Victorian times when it appeared on the Ordnance Survey map of 1870 as 'the Queen of the Forest'. The Knightwood Oak is a classic 'pollard' - when it was young someone cut off its head. This was a traditional way to harvest wood sustainably for fencing and firewood as it allowed new growth out of the reach of the grazing animals. Pollarding generally helps trees to live longer, and most of the biggest and oldest trees in the forest are pollards.
Download the Knightwood Oak Podcast (MP3 2.3MB) for your MP3 player here so you can hear more about the famous tree whilst you're visiting it in the forest
The Adam and Eve Oaks
The Adam Oak is located in a hedge in Minstead.The slightly smaller Eve nearby appears to be dying back. Trees with dead branches such as this are known as 'stag headed', looking as they do like deer antlers. The measurements of the Adam Oak and the Knightwood Oak show that over the last 30 years there has been a battle for the title of 'largest oak in the forest'. The Knightwood Oak is winning, although only just!
The Eagle Oak
The Eagle Oak is hidden away in Knightwood Inclosure and gained notoriety in 1810 when a New Forest Keeper shot the last Sea Eagle from its branches. These birds have now been reintroduced into Scotland, so we can hope that in time to come, they will grace our New Forest skies once more.
As well as these giant oaks, the New Forest is also home to many conifers.
If you pay a visit to Rhinefield Ornamental Drive and the Tall Trees Trail (see picture on the right) you will see some of most magnificent redwoods in the country.
In 1919 the Forestry Commission was established with the aim of creating a strategic reserve of timber in the event of another war. These trees grow very quickly and so are excellent sources of timber.
This purpose remained the same until the early 1980s where the emphasis changed and now the general policy is to convert the woodlands to hardwood species over the next few decades by gradually phasing out the conifers.
Traditionally, conifer crops have provided income from timber sales to help meet the costs of managing the forest, but most of these conifers are non-native and the policy now is to favour only native species.
The trees are an integral part of the forest and provide many different habitats for animals, insects and birds. They have to be planted, weeded, thinned and felled in cycles to maintain the integrity and health of the forest. All these operations are carried out in consultation with other users of the forest and in harmony with nature wherever possible.