A century ago, most Heath trees were confined to the North and South Woods, other than ornamental varieties planted around the estates of the time.
Most of the present day trees have grown in the open lands, once cleared for grazing.
Birch has colonized the sandy West Heath and oaks and sycamores the more grassy areas.
Old hedgerow boundaries support rare wild service trees, woodland hawthorns and ancient oaks.
North Wood and South Wood, on the Kenwood Estate, are ancient woods at least 400 years old and may represent a continuous woodland cover, present since prehistoric times.
Fallen trees are now left to provide dead wood habitats for invertebrates.
The Great Storm of 1987 ( see plaque) caused a lot of damage as did the clearing up operation afterwards.
There are two main types of oak:
THE PENDUNCULATE OAK (leaf with a stalk, common in wood pastures, old hedge lines and boundaries.)
THE SESSILE OAK (leaf without a stalk, rarer and found in poorer soils and high rainfall...the ancient oaks. They are found in South Wood.)
The Heath has over 500 veteran trees, which number is far above the national average.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries landed gentry, such as the Mansfields of Kenwood, the Southamptons at Fitzroy Park, Thomas Spencer Wells and Sir Thomas Maryon Wilson, planted exotic species resulting in the pseudo-acacias and exotic oaks and maples seen today.
Maryon Wilson was responsible for the large row of oaks along the edge of the upper Viaduct Path, near the fairground site.
They are NOT ancient...they are Lucombe oaks, an hybrid between the Turkey and the Cork oak.
There are great difficulties in managing The Heath trees.
For example, the growth of excessive sycamores often causes complaints BUT they are loved by bird watchers as sycamores harbour a large numbers of insects, providing food for the birds.
An account of all trees that are/have been growing on The Heath is contained within the pages of "Flowering Shrubs and Flowers" as well as a page of slides of such.