New to the Commons?
Find out more about the things to do?
Events, sports facilities, walks and more
The wetland zones
Nestled in the wetland areas, or bogs, are a range of small, unassuming and relatively rare plants that you won’t find in any other habitats. Drainage in historical and recent times means such sites are rare in London and the surrounding countryside and largely confined to protected locations. On the Commons, the bog communities are made up of a diverse collection of plants such as Bog Mosses, Bogbean, Bulbous Rush, Oval Sedge, Star Sedge, Water Horsetail, Alder Buckthorn, Marsh Pennywort and Lesser Skullcap. Lesser Spearwort, Yellow Iris, Reedmace, Common Reed, Marsh Thistle and Gypsywort are also commonly found. The Farm Bog site on Wimbledon Common is one of only two sites in London where Veilwort (Pallavicinia lyelli) has been found.
The acid grasslands and heathland mosaic
The open grasslands and heaths form a patchy mosaic of communities. Purple Moor Grass is common throughout. Ling dominates the heathland areas. Other heather species can also be found, such as the Cross Leaved Heath, which is more frequent in wetter areas.
Orchids may occasionally be seen in both heathland and grassland areas. Recently, there has been renewed recording of the main acid grassland area, known as The Plain. The aim is to monitor the impact of annual mowing on the plants and insects and to understand the community better. At the same time, at least one hectare is left uncut each year to provide a refuge for ground nesting birds and to encourage their breeding. In 2015, skylarks, a species in decline in Britain, bred successfully on The Plain for the first time since 2007.
On the open grassland in high summer, flowering herbaceous plants, such as Vetches, Tormentil, Birds Foot Trefoil, Stitchwort and Heath Bedstraw, create colourful patchworks of purple, yellow and white. The paler yellow flowers of Yellow Rattle are increasingly widespread. This semi-parasitic plant weakens the roots of grasses and beneficially opens the sward to other herbaceous plants, thus increasing biodiversity in the grasslands. Grasses such as Yorkshire Fog, Common Bent and Sweet Vernal Grass are common, with Purple Moor Grass, sedges and rushes abundant in the wetter areas
Some of the characteristic plants of the Commons acid grassland - heathland-wetland mosaic include:
Alder Buckthorn Frangula ulnus
Bell Heather Erica cinerea
Bog Moss Sphagnum (several species)
Bogbean Menyanthes trifoliata
Broad-leaved Willowherb Epilobium montanum
Brown Sedge Carex disticha
Bulbous Rush Juncus bulbosus
Common Bent Agrostis capillaris
Creeping Willow Salix repens
Cross-Leaved Heather Erica tetralix
Dwarf Gorse Ulex minor
Floating Club Rush Eleogitan fluitans
Heath Bedstraw Galium saxatile
Heath Woodrush Luzula multiflora
Heather (Ling) Calluna vulgaris
Mat-Grass Nardus stricta
Purple Moor Grass Molinia careulea
Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa
Sweet Vernal Grass Anthoxanthum odoratum
Water Horse-Tail Equisetum fluviatile
Yellow Rattle Rhinanthus minor
Yorkshire Fog Holcus lanatus
Our recent work shows that over 100 herbaceous plant species can regularly be seen on the acid grasslands and heaths during the summer .
A fuller list and discussion is available in the publication ‘Monitoring on the Plain 2014’ which is available from the Ranger’s Office.
Within the woodlands, open glades where light can penetrate often reflect the plants of the surrounding heath and grassland areas. Brambles and tree seedlings abound and an understory of Holly and Hazel may develop. Various species of Willowherb are commonly seen and occasionally Foxgloves. We are working to promote more open areas within the woodlands since these also encourage butterflies if suitable food plants are present.
The ‘weedy’ plants of the wayside margins are also important for the Commons ecology. They form food sources for a wide range of insect species and excellent shelter for nesting birds. Cow Parsley and Hogweed are abundant, giving attractive early summer vistas to the paths and bridleways. Hawkweeds, Sorrels and Dandelions are also present; Thistles, Horsetails, Bindweed, Plaintains and Sorrel are common. Mugwort is found near the main car park and wood pile on Wimbledon Common alongside Oxeye Daisies and Wall Barley. Rosebay Willowherb is also patchily abundant along the wayside margins.
As well as plants and wildlife, fungi can be found around the Commons. Because of the ecological importance of fungi, and concern at the disturbance and damage caused by foraging for fungi, we now have a Code of Conduct for fungi collection, limiting the amount of fungi that can be collected to 250g per person. A permit must be obtained from the Ranger's Office if you wish to pick fungi.
If you wish to hold a foray on the Commons, please contact the Ranger's Office on 020 8788 7655 or by e-mail.