Today, Perth and Kinross is one of the more wooded regions of Scotland, and has particular potential for the study of historic trees and woodlands. Research in other parts of Scotland has revealed examples of living oaks and pines dating back to the 15th century (Baillie 1982; Mills 2008 and 2015). Similar survivals may be present in Perth and Kinross. Likely locations for finding medieval trees include early parkland, plantations and wood pastures.
The extent of tree cover in Perth and Kinross in the Middle Ages is unclear. By the early 15th century foreign commentators were already commenting on the scarcity of woodland in Scotland. Legislation forbidding peeling bark from trees was passed by the Scottish Parliament at Perth in 1425 (Records of the Parliaments of Scotland 1425/3/11). Meanwhile, dendrochronological study of timbers in Scottish medieval buildings suggests that during the 15th century imported oak was increasingly used for construction (Mills and Crone 2012, 32). All of this implies significant deforestation in Scotland towards the end of the Middle Ages. Yet, the amount of deforestation earlier on in the medieval period, and how significant an issue it was in Perth and Kinross, remains unknown.
There is written and physical evidence for a late medieval timber industry in the Black Wood of Rannoch. This has received a degree of study (Lindsay 1974; Gilbert 1979; Mills 2010; Mills et al 2017). Similar research into other areas of historic woodland in Perth and Kinross would be desirable. Interdisciplinary studies, including surveys, archaeological excavation, textual evidence, place-name evidence and historic map data and investigation of the woods and trees themselves could reveal much about the history of old wooded landscapes in Perth and Kinross. While such landscape studies are likely to be multi-period in approach, they may well uncover valuable information about medieval wooded landscapes. The burgh of Perth has also produced an exceptional range of wooden artefacts and buildings which can help inform our understanding of how woodlands were exploited in the region.
Long-established woodlands have the potential to preserve archaeological remains much better than open farmland. LiDAR has revolutionised the discovery and recording of surface features in woodland. Archaeological remains may relate to woodland management but can often pre-date it. Given the extensive tree planting in Perth and Kinross during the post-medieval period of improvement, it is quite possible that various medieval remains are currently preserved under 18th- and 19th-century woodland.