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Herbaceous ground vegetation in artificially-created gaps was studied in a managed beech (Fagus sylvatica L.) forest over a period of eight years in Northern Hungary, Central Europe. These gaps were being used as an alternative to the regular shelterwood system to create uneven-aged stands. The effects of gap size (15 and 40 m diameter) and canopy openness on herbaceous species colonization and persistence were assessed in a systematic grid of 5 5 m. Overall, herbaceous cover was low before gap creation, increased soon afterwards, and continued to rise over time. The number of herb species increased in the gaps and, to a lesser extent, in adjacent areas under the remaining tree canopy. Colonization of gaps was rapid and there was substantial turnover of species i.e. various species disappeared from the gaps over time whilst others colonized. Species with both long-term persistent seed banks and long distance dispersal abilities were the most successful types colonizing gaps. Six species occurred preferentially in large gaps, while only one species was found to prefer small gaps. Species present before gap creation survived in both gap sizes. Smaller gaps with a diameter of half the height of canopy trees also tended to remain free of common weed species, whereas large cover of Rubus fruticosus L. and Calamagrostis epigejos (L.) Roth could hamper natural regeneration in larger gaps. For the successful regeneration of beech we recommend the use of small gaps complemented by few large gaps.