Local Heroes: Meet Seven of Britain’s Native Trees

native trees

What are native trees?

Native tree species are those that found their way to the UK naturally, without human intervention.

Our native trees colonised the country after the last ice age, when the UK was still attached to mainland Europe – over 10,000 years ago.

Native trees are great for wildlife. They provide our native birds, animals and insects with the food and habitat they need to thrive.

Here are seven of our favourite native trees.

Common beech (Fagus sylvatica)

Known as the queen of British trees, the common beech is a large deciduous tree native to South Wales and southern England.

Beech trees can grow to over 40m tall and can live hundreds of years. Some live to over 1,000 years old!

The beech’s dense canopy makes it a great habitat for butterflies including the white admiral, grizzled skipper and Duke of Burgundy.

Silver birch (Betula pendula)

The elegant silver birch grows as far north as Lapland and as far south as Spain. It’s happiest in dry woodland, heaths and downs.

Silver birch provides the perfect habitat to over 300 species of insect. Its seeds are eaten by greenfinches, siskins and redpolls, and woodpeckers often make their nests in its trunk.

Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa)

Blackthorn, or sloe, is a small deciduous tree native to most of Europe. It can also be found as far away as New Zealand, western Asia and North America.

Blackthorn was historically associated with witchcraft – its wood was said to be used to make witches’ and wizards’ wands and staffs.

Its blue-black fruits are used to flavour gin and to make wine and preserves.

Elder (Sambucas nigra)

It’s thought the name elder originates from the Anglo-Saxon aeld – meaning fire – because the tree’s hollow stems were used as bellows to blow air into fires.

The elder’s creamy-coloured, highly-scented flowers are followed by small, purple-black berries which ripen from late summer to autumn.

Elder is often found near badger setts and rabbit warrens, where the animals spread its seeds through their droppings.

Hazel (Corylus avellana)

Hazel is a deciduous broadleaf tree that grows across Europe, western Asia and parts of north Africa.

Coppiced hazel woods provide shelter for ground-nesting birds like nightingales, nightjars and willow warblers, and hazel nuts are eaten by dormice to fatten up before hibernation.

In springtime, hazel wood is so bendy it can be tied in a knot without breaking.

Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris)

This evergreen conifer is one of only three conifers native to the UK. Mature Scots pines can reach 35m tall and can live for up to 700 years.

Its needle-like leaves are bluish green and slightly twisted. It flourishes in heathland and grows abundantly in the Caledonian Forest in the Scottish Highlands.

The timber of the Scots pine is one of the strongest softwoods available, and is used widely in joinery and in the construction industry.

Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)

Rowan is also known as mountain ash, due to its propensity to grow at high altitudes and the similarity of its leaves to those of the ash.

The rowan’s old Celtic name is fid na ndruad, which means wizards’ tree – its bright red berries have long been associated with witchcraft and magic.

Its berries are a rich source of autumn nutrition for birds including blackbirds, mistle thrushes, waxwings and redwings.

Do you have any of these trees growing in your garden? If your trees could use some expert attention, get in touch with us today – we’d love to help.

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