Londoners have always been innovative with introducing new species and some of the trees and wildlife now taken granted in London are actually, on the timeline of natural history, quite new. Some introduced species become naturalised and we tend to forget they actually have foreign origins. And then there are new ‘invasive’ species who also have found home in London.
The timeline does not include all non-native species (very far from it!), but a tiny selection to illustrate when different species have arrived and became part of the city. Personally I think they enrich London and make it more interesting and vibrant place, but everyone are welcome to their own opinion. 😊
Non-native species now settled in London
Now naturalised fruit tree in UK is actually from Asia and was first cultivated in Britain by Romans. It’s likely apple has been grown in London since its foundation, nearly 2000 years ago!
- Fallow Deer
Fallow Deer are also introduced to Europe from Asia and were first brought to UK around 11 century by Normans. It’s now become a common deer in UK and London parks alongside the red deer.
Yes, rabbit also travelled to Britain from mainland Europe with Normans. Now widespread in UK and London parks, the rabbit hasn’t been around for longer than 800 years!
Now naturalised tree from mainland Europe was introduced around middle ages, more than 500 years ago and is now a common tree of London’s urban forest.
- Horse Chestnut
Horse Chestnut is actually from Turkey and was brought to UK on late 16th century. It’s another loved non-native tree that has found a home on London streets and in parks.
- London Plane
One of the most common street trees in London was introduced from Spain in 17th century, but this hardy urbanised tree is actually a hybrid of oriental and American plane.
- Great White Pelican
The pelican has been around in St James’s Park since 1664 when first birds were gifted to London by ambassador from Russia. 40 pelicans have since lived in the park (corrected).
- Weeping Willow
This willow is native in Northern China and was first seen in London in 1700s. It’s often found near ponds, rivers and canals thanks to its dramatic drooping branches.
- Canada Goose
A native in North-America this large goose has been around for around 300 years, spread widely on 20th century and is now the most common goose around London park lakes.
- Egyptian Goose
This African native has been an ornamental bird since 18th century, but made an escape and has now made a permanent home of London parks mainly because of the milder winters.
- Grey Squirrel
The most known London species of non-natives has been running wild in London since 1870s. Originally a guest from North-America the Grey Squirrel has taken over London and most of the country.
- Little Owl
Brought over from Europe in late 1880s little owl is now quite common in England and Wales and can be spotted hunting in leafier parts of London urban forrest.
- Mandarin Duck
This colourful bird from Far East was also part of the ornamental waterfowl before breaking into freedom in 20th century and now living freely on London park lakes.
- Ring-Necked Parakeet
The only resident parrot in UK is originally from Africa and Asia. First spotted in London nearly half a century ago it settled permanently in over last few decades.
And here’s the visual timeline.. Enjoy!
Sources that helped me to make this infographic