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.

Sunlight lit winter woodland with snowy ground, UK/Credit: Getty Images

In the colder winter months, the British countryside is magically transformed into a white wonderland of frosty fields, snowy forests and woodlands. Don’t let the darkness of winter put you off from heading outdoors to spot wildlife, as this season brings with it some of nature’s greatest wildlife spectacles and many thriving plant species.


Keep and eye and ear out during your next woodland or forest walk with our guide to the best British wildlife to spot in woodlands in the winter months.

Best woodland plants to spot in the winter

All illustrations by Felicity Rose Cole


Traveller’s joy, Clematis vitalba 

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

Illustration of the woodland plant Traveller's Joy/Credit: Felicity Rose Cole


Butcher’s broom Ruscus aculeatus

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



Mistletoe, Viscum album

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



Common polypody, Polypodium vulgare

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



Hart’s tongue fern, Phyllitis scolopendrium

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



Hard fern, Blechnum spicant

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



Coral spot fungus, nectria cinnabarina

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

Coral spot fungus. Felicity Rose Cole


King Alfred’s cakes, Daldinia concentrica

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

King alfred's cakes. Felicity Rose Cole


Many-zoned polypore, Trametes versicolor

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

Many zoned polypore. Felicity Rose Cole


Large white-moss, Leucobryum glaucum

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



Capillary thread-moss, Bryum capillare

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

Capillary thread moss. Felicity Rose Cole


Rough-stalked feather-moss, Brachythecium rutabulum

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


Test your tree general knowledge with our quiz: