Scientific name Betula pubescens – Pteridium aquilinum woodland
Common name Downy Birch – Bracken woodland
Community code WL4F


WL4F: Betula pubescens – Pteridium aquilinum woodland  WL4F: Betula pubescens – Pteridium aquilinum woodland  WL4F map: Betula pubescens – Pteridium aquilinum woodland

Download full pdf synopsis: WL4F



The low canopy of this woodland community is dominated by Betula pubescens. Amongst the dense birch trunks, Salix cinerea also frequently occurs and the occasional Ilex aquifolium may be found, but other tree species are scarce. The field layer comprises mainly Rubus fruticosus agg., Dryopteris dilatata and Pteridium aquilinum; bramble often forms extensive thickets while the relatively thin canopy allows patches of bracken to persist. Tufts of Molinia caerulea may occur and less often some Dryopteris carthusiana or Rubus idaeus. The bryophyte layer is typically rather patchy with Kindbergia praelonga, Scleropodium purum and Thuidium tamariscinum being the mainstay species.



This is a community of highly organic, drained basin peats on predominantly flat ground in the lowlands. It predominantly occurs as part of a mosaic of habitats on degraded raised bogs.



No sub-communities have been described for this community.


Similar communities

From other fairly dry birch woodlands, community WL4F may be distinguished by the high frequency of Pteridium aquilinum and the scarcity of Sorbus aucuparia. It also lacks the grassy component of community WL4B and the Vaccinium myrtillus usually found in community WL4A.


Conservation value

This is a very species-poor woodland community with a limited bryophyte flora.



The main threats to these woodlands include overgrazing by deer or livestock, woodland clearance and invasion by non-native species such as Rhododendron ponticum. Undergrazing may also occur, however, resulting in dense thickets of bramble that reduce field layer diversity.