The park is perhaps most famous for its oak woodlands, which are about 12.2 square kilometres (3,000 acres) in size. They form the largest area of native woodland remaining in Ireland and are a remnant of the woodland that once covered much of Ireland. Derrycunihy Wood is perhaps the most natural Sessile Oak (Quercus petraea) wood in Ireland. Most of the oak woodlands are located on the lower slopes of the Shehy and Tomy mountains, adjacent to Lough Leane. They are typically dominated by Sessile Oak, which favours the acidic soils of the sandstone mountains. The woods have Annex I status in the EU Habitats Directive because of their diverse and rich flora, most notably their bryophytes (mosses and liverworts).
The oak woodlands typically have an understory of Holly (Ilex aquifolium). Strawberry Trees (Arbutus unedo) are a notable part of these woods. There are also scattered Yews. The field layer includes Bilberry and Woodrush. The herb layer is not rich in species.
Bryophytes, lichens and filmy ferns (Hymenophyllaceae), thrive in the humid oceanic climate. Species with restricted Atlantic distributions grow in the woods. The bryophytes in these woods are perhaps the best-developed Atlantic bryophyte community in Europe. The remote Glaism na Marbh valley has a particularly rich flora of bryophytes, some of which are scarce or absent in other parts of the woods. Mosses, ferns and liverworts frequently occur as epiphytes, attached to the trunks and branches of oak trees. Rare species growing in the woods include Cyclodictyon laetivirens, Daltonia splachnoides, Lejeunea flava, Radula carringtonii, and Sematophyllum demissum.
Bird species that reside in the oak woods include Blue Tit, Common Chaffinch, Goldcrest, European Robin, and Wren. Mammals include Badger, Fox, Pine Marten, Red Deer, Sika Deer, and Red Squirrel. Insects include many species of the parasitic Gall Wasp and the Purple Hairstreak butterfly, whose caterpillar is entirely dependent upon Oak trees.
The introduced common Rhododendron is a large threat to certain areas of the oak woods. For example, it is widespread throughout Camillan Wood despite ongoing attempts to control it.
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