Forum geobotanicum (2023)11:1-7
DOI 10.3264/FG.2023.0420

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Rense Haveman

Phytosociological notes on hedges in South Ayrshire, Scotland

Published online: 20 April 2023
© Forum geobotanicum 2023

Abstract On the basis of four relevées of hedges around Straiton en Dailly in South Ayrshire, Scotland, some features of hedges are discussed. On the basis of the brambles, the vegetation of these hedges can be assigned to the Pruno-Rubion sprengelii, which comprises the bramble scrubs of circumneutral and nutrient rich soils in West Europe (Haveman et al. 2017, Haveman & de Ronde 2019). Until now, this alliance was thought to be restricted to the northwestern edge of the European continent, but based on these relevées and the known distribution area of Rubus nemoralis and Rubus polyanthemus, both characteristic for the Pruno-Rubion sprengelii, large parts of North England and Scotland have to be included in the distribution area of the alliance.
The Pruno-Rubion sprengelii is optimally developed in rather narrow structures, like hedges, which are pruned every year. Here, brambles and herbs alike can grow with and under the shrubs, facilitated by the light that reaches large parts of the ground. Where the economic base of hedges perishes, they are not longer maintained, and the shrubs can grow out to their natural proportions. This changes the amount of light reaching the surface in the inner parts of the thicket, changing the competition between the species. The brambles as well as the herbs are displaced to the outer edges of the scrub, and the vegetation "dissociates" in a high-growing scrub, a fore-mantle ("cuff") with brambles, and a fringe with perennial herbs. These elements can hardly ever be assigned to the Pruno-Rubion anymore.
The Pruno-Rubion sprengelii in optima forma is a scrub in which the three elements (shrubs, brambles, and herbs) grow closely intertwined. This is rarely found in natural landscapes, and thus the alliance is a typical element of the old farmer landscape. What is more: the typical species of the alliance, like Rubus nemoralis and R. polyanthemus, could only evolve after the landscape was opened by farmers in the last six millennia (Matzke-Hajek 1997), giving way to Rubus ulmifolius to expand its distribution area. This caused an explosion of hybrids which stabilised through apomixis into the wealth of Rubus species inhibiting the West European landscape nowadays (Sochor et al. 2015). Many of these species have their original home in a man-made landscape. Therefore, the Pruno-Rubion sprengelii can be characterised as a "farmers alliance" pur sang.

Keywords agricultural landscape, management, Pruno-Rubion sprengelii, Rhamno-Prunetea, vegetation

Rense Haveman
De Ronde & Haveman‚ąíResearch and consultancy agency for Geobotany and Landscape
Kerkstraat 19
6671 AP Zetten, The Netherlands