Get to know your trees
Our English countryside is mainly populated by what are known as Deciduous Trees. These are characterised by the yearly loss and regrowth of their leaves. Over the years however, various Evergreen Trees have been introduced leading to a much more diverse and interesting treescape.
Listed in these pages are some of the more common varieties that grace our woodlands and your gardens.
Our most common varieties of Deciduous Tree are ALDER, APPLE, ASH, BEECH, CHERRY, ELDER, HAWTHORN, HAZEL, HORNBEAM, HORSE CHESTNUT, LARCH, LONDON PLANE, MAPLE, OAK, PLUM, SILVER BIRCH and WILLOW.
Amongst Evergreens you'll find COMMON BOX, CYPRESS, EUCALYPTUS, HOLLY and SCOTS PINE.
ALDER or ALNUS GLUTINOSA
Growing to a height of 75', it's leaves are almost round with very clear viens running through them. The fruit of the Alder, known as Catkins are conical in shape and green in colour, resembling Acorns (See Oak). This individual rarely has a central trunk, more typically having two or three stems eminating from one root ball.
APPLE or MALUS SYLVESTRIS
There are many different types of Apple Tree and it doesn't take a trained eye to recognise one so in this section we will speak in generic terms rather than be specific. Typically the Apple will grow to approx 30' and be instantly recognisable by the fruit it bears or it's very beautful blossoms. (in season ofcourse) It's leaves are elyptical in shape with good, strong viens running through them.
ASH or FRAXINUS EXCELSIOR
The Common Ash can reach heights of up to 100' . It's bark is well deligniated and slightly grey in colour.
It's fruits are known as 'keys' and it flowers in season, though these are not the prettiest of things.
It's leaves come in pairs off a central stem which is itself the bearer of a single leaf.
It is not advisable to eat the fruit of an Ash Tree.
BEECH or FAGUS SYLVATICA
The Common Beech typically reaches heights of 130' . Growing from a main stem or trunk but rapidly splitting off into two or three separate stems, this can lead to leaning or lopsidedness and present a danger on that basis. Regular pruning is advised to address the problem.
It's leaves are elyptical in shape and eminate from a central stem but unlike the Ash, each leaf has it's own sub-stem.
The leaves of the Beech will turn from a lush green to a golden brown colour in Autumn and she'll bear fruit, cleverly entitled the Spiny Beech Nut, this being a Nut, from a Beech, which is Spiny. Who said an Arborist lacked imagination?
CHERRY or PRUNUS ICANZAN (Japanese Flowering Variety)
Growing to approx 30' it features a distinctive pink blossom around April-May. There are many different types of Cherry but this one is beautiful and if you want one, we'd certainly recommend this variety. It's bark is very unusual, being smooth to touch but having horizontal markings of uniform length across it, almost as if someone had drawn them on with a crayon.
CHERRY or PRUNUS AVIUM (Wild Variety)
Growing a little taller, to around 80' . Blossoming in white, April-May. The fruit appears afterwards June-July. Even though this tends to end up as food for the birds, the blossom and the fruit make for a wondrous display and would grace any garden.
ELDER or SAMBUCUS NIGRA
The Elder can reach a height of 30' if allowed to develop as a tree but it is commonly pruned back and termed a shrub in this instance.
You'll notice large groups of creamy white flowers around June. These are followed by small black berries which are used to make Elderberry wine.
Within herbal medicine* the Elder has many uses in the treatment of breathing difficulties, headaches and even, open wounds.
*Advice on the taking of Herbal Medicines should always be sought from a qualified Herbalist.
HAWTHORN aka MAY or CRATAEGUS MONOGYNA
A smaller tree this one, growing to around 16' . This is more commonly found in hedgerows or on parkland probably due to its sharp thorns making it a non-favourite in the garden, especially around small children.
Featuring small glossy leaves with a white blossom appearing in May followed in September by the appearance of small red berries or 'haws'.
Hawthorn is a hard wood but not one that is generally used in the manufacture of furniture due to it's lack of any real diameter.
We call it the Tree Surgeons friend this one. It's right up there with Pyrocanther (The security fence) OUCH.!!!
HAZEL or CORYLUS AVELLANA
The Hazel is commonly found growing amongst Oak but it is generally dwarfed by them since it grows to a mere 22'.
It flowers Jan through to March and features round, hairy leaves with serrated edges.
The Hazelnut is ofcourse good to eat but must be left to turn brown before doing so.
HORNBEAM or CARPINUS BETULUS
Growing to approx 65' and quite common in the South of England, it's leaves are similar in shape to those of the Beech with a more prominent vein structure and a serrated edge.
It produces Catkins in the Spring followed by Nutlets in the Autumn.
The wood from the Hornbeam is very hardwearing and used in the production of tools, Hammers, Chisels and the like.
HORSE CHESTNUT aka CONKER TREE or AESCULUS HIPPOCASTANUM
The school boys favourite, this one can grow to a height of 80' It's large leaves with pronounced vein structure make it instantly recognisable.
May flowering leads to Autumn when those distinctive green spiky globes appear containing the possible 'sixer' or even a 'twelver'
NB It is understood that the playing of 'Conkers' has now been banned in some schools and as a result, we cannot and do not endorse it.
LARCH or LARIX DECIDUA
There is an exception to every rule and this is a BIG one., growing to 110'. The Larch is actually a conifer BUT it's Deciduous. It has needles, not leaves and these being green in colour will turn yellow before dropping off in Autumn.
The fruit of the Larch are conical and woody, growing along the length of the branch..
LONDON PLANE or PLATANUS X HISPANICA
Another 110 footer, this is a curious mix of the American and Oriental Planes. With large glossy leaves it flowers in mid May, these flowers resembling small round balls on sticks.
The fruits of this tree can best be described as bristly balls with hairs sticking out. These hairs can cause an allergic reaction so please, be careful.
The bark of the London Plane peels away in patches exposing the paler underbark. This is quite normal and does not signify a problem. It just likes to do that..!!
The wood itself is quite hard and is therefore good in furniture making though not well suited to exterior usage due to water retention.
THE MIGHTY OAK or QUERCUS ROBER
Well, what is there to say about this beauty that hasn't already been said a million times over?
Poets and authors have waxed lyrical for centuries and understandably so too.
Growing to about 60' it's not the tallest tree in the wood but somehow, it's the most magestic.
It's fruit is the Acorn of course. ".from small Acorns the Mighty Oak doth grow." These trees can live for hundreds of years and their wood is much sought after in the manufacture of furniture, house and boat building.
The Acorns appear around September when the Squirrels go 'nuts' for them.
PLUM or PRUNUS DOMESTICA
Up to 30' this one, so not big but what it lacks in stature, it more than makes up for, in fruit.
The white blossoms March-May give way to the Plums in July but they are green, hard and bitter to taste, left til August/September, their colour changes to that beautiful deep red or purple and they become sweet, juicy and succulent to eat. Be quick though, we don't know of an animal (or bird) that doesn't like them just as much as we do.!!!
Growing to 65' this instantly recognisable favourite of our landscape is supremely adaptable, doing well in all sorts of climates. Indeed it is possibly this same adaptability that leads to its downfall. That being that the Silver Birch does not have as great a lifespan as many other trees. It lives to a maximum of 60/65 years.
The bark is a Silver/Grey in colour and rather like the London Plane, this splits off in patches revealing a darker underbark.
Silver Birch wood is not generally used for furniture since it is quite weak. More often it is used in veneers and in plywood.
WEEPING WILLOW or SALIX X CHRYSOCOMA
Growing to around 25' but then more often than not, turning straight back around and growing back down again, the Weeping Willow is most commonly found near high concentrations of water.
Indeed the Willow will get through so much of it as to virtually dry out an area oftentimes making the foundations of a building unsafe.