This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
The origin of many of the fruit trees of this country is wrapt in obscurity. It is certain, however, that some, such as the Cherry, were introduced from the south of Europe, and the apples, plums, pears, peaches, etc., that have been cultivated and improved in orchards and kitchen gardens for centuries have lost their original characters.
De Candolle has traced the history of many of them by the comparative method, and if we regard the quasi-wild or truly wild species, such as the Crab, Wild Plum, Wild Pear, it will be found that they are largely reversions to a wild stock from cultivated plants. None the less, there are a number of the smaller fruit trees, such as the Sloe or Bullace, Raspberry, Hazel, that certainly originated in our woodlands, whilst the Currant and Gooseberry, and the Plum are found in a wild state to-day.
Reference is made elsewhere to some of the causes of the disappearance of woodlands, which is one proof of their value, economically considered. Another reason for their preservation, to which allusion has also been made, is their effect in preserving moisture.
A very prominent feature of woodlands also is their beauty, and it is to be hoped that the efforts to preserve beauty spots which has been so well begun by the National Trust will be fostered and extended in the future. The afforestation of the whole country on scientific lines is urgentlv required. The rising generation may lend their support by taking part in Arbor Day, or the planting of trees on festive occasions.
It is very important that a careful distinction should be drawn between woods that are natural and those that are artificial. Natural woodlands upon clay and loam commonly consist of the pedunculate Oak, while on sandy soil sessile Oak prevails. This may occur also on siliceous soils, which are also characterized by Birch scrub. Heathy tracts also consist of Birch in some areas, and on gravelly soils of the Pine. Ash is the principal tree in limestone areas, and also occurs on chalk. But the chief tree on chalk and oolite is the Beech.
Where such conditions occur, the woodlands may be regarded as natural.
All these trees are likewise found in a planted state, but an examination of the ground flora and scrub will reveal this as a rule. The coniferous woods and plantations, except Pine and Yew (the latter found on the chalk), are artificial also. The distinguishing of the characters of a wood will be an excellent piece of work if skilfully directed.
Woodlands are the particular resort of a variety of Cryptogams. The whole group of Fungi are especially fond of moisture, and as they can grow in the shade they flourish in the woodlands. They are to be found on the trunks of the trees, to which they do a great deal of harm. Old stumps are especially the habitat of many fungi that flourish upon the putrescent wood. Upon the sticks or dead (or living) undergrowth a large number of the microscopic forms are to be found. Upon the grounds the agarics and peziziform fungi grow, and the beautiful earth-stars.
Lichens grow well in woodlands upon the trunks, and where the woods are rocky on the rocks. They need a clear atmosphere and moisture. Here, too, those delicate, moisture-loving plants known as Hepatics or Liverworts are particularly at home. They grow upon the base of the tree-trunks, amongst the undergrowth, on rocks, and upon the bare ground, in open clearings and rides. The same remarks apply to Mosses. Horsetails and Ferns are especially fond of moist habitats that are to be found in woods.