Wildlife to spot in a winter woodland

Strolling through a woodland in winter can be a revelation - welcome to a world of fungi, ferns and delicate mosses. Use our guide to identify 12 species you might see in a winter woodland. 


All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole


1. Traveller’s joy Clematis vitalba (above)

Huge ropes ascend into branches; feathery plumes on seed-heads. Limestone or chalky soils.


2. Butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus

Greenish flowers and red berries; ‘leaves’ are modified stems. Mainly in southern and western woods.


3. Mistletoe Viscum album

White berries and oval, evergreen leaves. Mainly in south and west, along wood-edges and in orchards.


4. Common polypody Polypodium vulgare

One of three similar species, all with lobed fronds and clusters of orange spores on underside. Widespread.


5. Hart’s tongue fern Phyllitis scolopendrium

Leathery, strap-like fronds, with parallel rows of spores underneath. Mainly west and north; rarer in east.


6. Hard fern Blechnum spicant

Two frond types: sterile are broad and lobed; spore-bearing are narrow and comb-like. Mainly on acid soils.


7. Coral spot fungus nectria cinnabarina

Bright orange or pink polka-dot pustules. Widespread everywhere on smaller branches and twigs.


8. King Alfred’s cakes Daldinia concentrica

Blackish fruiting bodies; when sliced reveals concentric rings. On tree trunks, especially ash and beech.


9. Many-zoned polypore Trametes versicolor

Banded brackets with pale edges; fresh brackets often purplish ‘bloom’. Common on rotting logs.


10. Large white-moss Leucobryum glaucum

Forms large tufts of whitish-green leaves, paler when dry. Woods with little ground cover, especially beech.


11. Capillary thread-moss Bryum capillare

Leaves are oval with hair-like tips; drooping, cylindrical spore capsules. One of our most common mosses.


12. Rough-stalked feather-moss Brachythecium rutabulum


Forms feathery cushions and mats; egg-shaped leaves. Very common.