Wild Service Tree
Silviculture Better Understood After German Tour
A Woodland Heritage funded tour of some of the finest sites in Germany for wild service tree has boosted UK-forestry knowledge of this potential alternative hardwood species.
Planned and co-ordinated by forestry consultant, Christopher Guest, other attendees were Nick Marsh, a National Trust employee whose Masters dissertation was focused on wild service, and Miles Barne, who is undertaking silvicultural trials on wild service in woodland on the Sotterley Estate in Suffolk.
Classed as a medium priority species in the Sustainable Seed Source Project’s report of 2015, wild service is recognised as having future timber potential, but its uptake is low in the UK with its form and productivity failing to match what has been achieved over the centuries in countries such as Germany and France.
“The three days spent in Germany (with a brief visit to France too) sought to boost the group’s knowledge of the potential for wild service in the UK, whilst at the same time being realistic about the risks of growing this much-overlooked species,” said group leader, Christopher Guest. “Thankfully, in areas such as North Frankonia in Bavaria, when the risks are overcome the rewards can be amazing with some of the most expensive veneer logs ever sold coming from the wild service grown in that region.”
Whilst oak is the main species in the University Forest District, Sailershausen, wild service contributes substantially to economic revenue attracting many study groups wanting to learn more about its silviculture. The Woodland Heritage funded group tackled topics such as seed collection, seeds versus suckers, planting (whether as patterns, pure or mixtures and densities), artificial or natural pruning, tending, thinning, diseases, markets and target diameters, all helping to understand how the finest wild service trees can reach 33m in 110 years. Genetic quality was also of major importance to the group, especially when considering the potential for sourcing for planting trials.
“The principal management aim in the Sotterley woodland is the production of fine quality oak timber,” said woodland manager, Miles Barne. “The estate’s interest in wild service results from an awareness that the principal hardwood species grown in Britain have recently become more vulnerable to diseases, some devastating for example, elm and ash. Oak at Sotterley already suffer from Acute Oak Decline and another mystery disease as yet unidentified. It therefore seems prudent to hedge the estate’s bets in a very small way by experimenting with minor species. The Estate has started with wild service by establishing simple trial plots to test how the species will grow in mixture with oak and also pure. It is hoped that more sophisticated trials can be established in time including, for example, a comparison of provenances and perhaps varied mixtures as seen at Sailershausen.”
As well as the visit to Sailershausen, the study tour also visited Lillientahl-Freiburg to view and discuss a provenance trial established in 1979 and to learn from the successes achieved and challenges presented in this experiment. The third visit was to forests in Saarland and Lorraine where natural regeneration of wild service has been occurring for many decades in principally mixed oak and hornbeam stands. The continuous cover management strategy in both of these regions is strictly focused on the production of premium quality timber.
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