Knole - a site of special scientific interest

Knole Park is home to many species of funghi

Knole is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) which means that we have to work hard to ensure the park remains a thriving habitat for its range of wildlife. We’re up to the challenge. Here’s an explorer’s guide to what to look for when you’re outdoors at Knole.

Knole park is made up of many different areas. There’s acidic grassland, parkland, woodland and ponds. Each is home to a range of flora and fungi as well as a clutch of rare invertebrates.

Ants
The hilly central area of the park is mostly acidic grassland. The Common bent grass Agrostis capillaris dominates the turf. There’s also Sheep’s Fescue Festuca ovina, Sheep’s-Sorrel Rumex acetosella and Sweet Vernal-Grass Anthoxanthum odoratum, among others.

The sward (a large area of short grass) is dotted with hundreds of anthills. These were made by the intrepid Yellow Meadow Ant. Each hill contains between 8,000 and 14,000 ants. This species of ant have been residents at Knole for centuries and these “ant villages” are park institutions.


Beetles
Both nationally rare and nationally scarce invertebrates make their home at Knole. They live in parkland and woodland habitats.

A nationally rare beetle, the Oak Pinhole Borer (Platypus cylindrus), is found in the Knole’s ancient forest. As its name suggests, it spends its days boring into thick oak bark.

The park also supports several nationally scarce dung beetles local to Kent. Aphodius zenkeri and Aphodius borealis feed on the dung of Knole’s deer herd.

The Cerylon fagi beetle lives in the dead wood from fallen trees. Bolitochara mulsanti and Dienerella elongata are both beetles attracted to fungus. Lucky for them, there’s a lot of it around.


Fungi
Nationally scarce species of fungi can be found living on and under trees, and growing on dead wood. Some even grow on the wooden parts of walls and buildings.

The earth star Geastrum fornicatum and the tube-gilled toadstool Boletus pruinatus both live under trees.

Dead wood species include Fomes fomentarius, which only grows on beech trees. It’s a rare sight in the south east. Schizophyllus, a gilled bracket fungus, grows on recently fallen timber.

Some of Knole’s fungi is history making. The first discovery of the lichen Parmelia elegantula in Britain was made on the sycamore which stands by the entrance to the Brewhouse Cafe. This sycamore has over 50 species of lichen living on its bark. Not bad for a little tree.