Hedgerows

Habitat type: 

Hedgerow
Hedgerow

Habitat code: 

WL1

Linear strips of shrubs, often with occasional trees, that typically form field or property boundaries. Most hedgerows originate from planting and many occur on raised banks of earth that are derived from the excavation of associated drainage ditches. Dimensions of hedgerows vary considerably, depending largely on management and composition, and are taken here as being mainly less than 5 m high and 4 m wide. When wider or taller than this, or dominated by trees, the habitat should be considered as a narrow strip of scrub or woodland, or as a treeline - WL2. Some hedgerows may be overgrown or fragmented if management has been neglected, but they should still be considered in this category unless they have changed beyond recognition. Linear strips of low scrub are included in this category if they occur as field boundaries.

Species composition varies with factors such as age, management, geology, soils and exposure. Hedgerows commonly support a high proportion of spinose plants such as Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna), Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), Gorse (Ulex europaeus), Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Dog-rose (Rosa canina) or Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.), in addition to many other native and non-native trees and shrubs including, for example, Ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Hazel (Corylus avellana), Beech (Fagus sylvatica), Elder (Sambucus nigra), elms (Ulmus spp.) and willows (Salix spp.). Some of these may occur as scattered tall trees. Fuchsia (Fuchsia magellanica), an introduced shrub, is a common component of hedgerows in parts of the south and west of Ireland. Hedgerows frequently support climbing plants such as Ivy (Hedera helix), Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum), Hedge Bindweed (Calystegia sepium), Cleavers (Galium aparine) and Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium). Tall grasses, including False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) and Hairy-brome (Bromopsis ramosa), ferns, and woodland herbs are characteristic.

Drainage ditches are often closely associated with hedgerows and should be recorded separately if they contain standing water or support aquatic plants (see drainage ditches - FW4). Dry ditches are not distinguished as separate habitats. Linear boundaries of low scrub, Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) in particular, should be included here, but note that earth banks - BL2 and stone walls and other stonework - BL1 are treated as separate categories.