Woodland - Introduction
Wooded Island (Photo: Laurie Campbell)
At a first glance there appear to be very few trees on Harris away from gardens. However, if you look at islands in lochs, on crags and in gullys you will spot a few trees. Trees grow in these places because grazing animals such as sheep, deer and cattle can’t get to them. On the open moor tree saplings usually get eaten as soon as they get above the height of the surrounding grasses and heather. However, when areas of moorland are fenced off from sheep and deer, trees will usually start growing from seeds that are brought in by birds or by the wind.
In the past, large areas of Harris that are open moorland today would have been wooded. We know this because it’s possible to find pollen grains at different depths in peat which tell us exactly which tree species were growing here at different times going back thousands of years. It’s also possible to find branches and roots of trees preserved in peat. Look out for old tree roots sticking out of peat at the edges of lochs and in peat banks.
Pine Tree Relic
Between the last ice age and 4,500 years ago much of the Western Isles would have been covered in woodland. After this the amount of woodland started to decrease as the climate got wetter and as people started to farm, clearing areas for grazing or crops. For the last couple of thousand years there has probably been very little woodland, similar to how it is today. However, over the last 20 years or so people have taken an interest in creating more woodland and there are now several new woodland planting areas on Harris.
By Robin RiedNext Section