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Beginners guide to trees
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Xeract
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Beginners guide to trees

Beginners guide to trees

With today's hectic lifestyle, spending time learning about our surrounding countryside and what inhabits it is becoming increasingly hard. In this article, I will explain how to identify some of the more common trees in the UK using their size, leaf and other features.

English Oak

Background
The English oak is one of the most common trees in the UK countryside, and is one of the few trees most people can identify. Nevertheless, it makes a good starting point. The English Oak is deciduous and native to Britain and parts of Europe. They are known for there long lifetimes, sometimes living over 1000 years.

Identification
Oaks are about 35m tall once fully grown, and their leaves grow to around 12cm long and 7cm across. Their distinctive acorns and leaves (see picture below) often make the oak easy to identify. The bark of the oak is pale brown and has deep grooves.




Common Beech

Background
The Common beech is found all over Europe and Britain. It was long thought to be native to the South of Britain, but recent evidence suggests it did no arrive until 4000BC. It is used for plywood, toys and furniture amongst other things. The typical lifetime of the common beech is not as long as the oak, but still around 100-200 years. It is also deciduous.

Identification
The Common Beech leaves are around 10cm long, 6cm across, and have a wavy edge (see picture below). The typical height of the Common beech is around 40-45 metres high. In contrast to the oak, the Common beech has smooth grey bark.




Ash

Background
The Common Ash is a deciduous tree native to Europe. It has many uses because of its "elastic" but strong composition, such as bows, baseball bats and tool handles.

Identification
The Common Ash's leaves are roughly 10cm long, 3cm across, and have a very fine toothed edge (see picture below). The typical height of the Common Ash is around 40 metres high. The bark is pale grey and smooth, but grooves begin to appear in it with age. In Spring the Common Ash produces small purple flowers, which open to form the winged seeds commonly known as keys.



Silver Birch

Background
The Silver Birch is native to Europe and Northern Asia, and is deciduous. Birch is a fast growing tree, so is often used as a nurse crop for slowing growing deciduous trees. It is also the national tree of Finland.

Identification
The Silver Birch leaves are around 6cm long and 4cm across. The tree itself is usually around 20m high. The leaves are distinctive as they are triangular with a course, toothed edge. The bark of the Silver Birch is usually white, and develops dark cracks with age.



Horse Chestnut

Background
Like the oak, this is a tree that most people can recognise, mainly because of the children's game conkers. The tree is deciduous and native to Greece and Albania. The wood of the Horse Chestnut tree is also ideal for woodcarving.

Identification
There are usually 5-7 toothed leaves on a single stalk. Each leaf is usually around 25 cm long. The bark is often redder than the other trees so far, but can also have more of a grey colour. The bark can often be described as "scaly" as it often has cracks running along it.



Wych Elm

Background
The Wych Elm is a deciduous tree native to Europe. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and veneers because of its attractive grain.

Identification
The Wych Elm leaves are around 15cm long and 4cm across. They also have a toothed edge, but are distinctive because of the short sharp point at the end of the leaf. The bark is grey to dark brown as the tree ages, and deep grooves appear as it gets older.




If you have any questions or comments about this article, please don't hesitate to ask in this thread and I will answer as best I can!

This post was last modified: 22-06-2007 11:34 AM by Xeract.

22-06-2007 11:31 AM
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Kingfisher
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

This is a wonderful idea, and I am looking forward to seeing more.

Kingfisher

22-06-2007 11:44 AM
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Richard
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Thanks for the article. Many children don't know trees at all, this would be a great starting point for them.

23-06-2007 10:20 AM
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Jane
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Hi, I am so delighted to have seen this new article, what a brilliant idea! I have moaned at my own family so often that children have not the first idea of our more common varieties of trees. I have to admit that although years ago I could identify many more, I have forgotten so much and so this will help refresh my memory. Great work, keep it coming!!

25-06-2007 11:18 AM
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sunshine
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

You've done some brilliant research Xeract. Until I read the article, I hadn't really thought about how much we take trees for granted. They provide so much for us and yet we need articles like yours to differentiate between an ash and an oak.
I hope your article encourages more interest in the environment.

25-06-2007 07:12 PM
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treetops
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Xeract Wrote:
Beginners guide to trees

With today's hectic lifestyle, spending time learning about our surrounding countryside and what inhabits it is becoming increasingly hard. In this article, I will explain how to identify some of the more common trees in the UK using their size, leaf and other features.

English Oak

Background
The English oak is one of the most common trees in the UK countryside, and is one of the few trees most people can identify. Nevertheless, it makes a good starting point. The English Oak is deciduous and native to Britain and parts of Europe. They are known for there long lifetimes, sometimes living over 1000 years.

Identification
Oaks are about 35m tall once fully grown, and their leaves grow to around 12cm long and 7cm across. Their distinctive acorns and leaves (see picture below) often make the oak easy to identify. The bark of the oak is pale brown and has deep grooves.




Common Beech

Background
The Common beech is found all over Europe and Britain. It was long thought to be native to the South of Britain, but recent evidence suggests it did no arrive until 4000BC. It is used for plywood, toys and furniture amongst other things. The typical lifetime of the common beech is not as long as the oak, but still around 100-200 years. It is also deciduous.

Identification
The Common Beech leaves are around 10cm long, 6cm across, and have a wavy edge (see picture below). The typical height of the Common beech is around 40-45 metres high. In contrast to the oak, the Common beech has smooth grey bark.




Ash

Background
The Common Ash is a deciduous tree native to Europe. It has many uses because of its "elastic" but strong composition, such as bows, baseball bats and tool handles.

Identification
The Common Ash's leaves are roughly 10cm long, 3cm across, and have a very fine toothed edge (see picture below). The typical height of the Common Ash is around 40 metres high. The bark is pale grey and smooth, but grooves begin to appear in it with age. In Spring the Common Ash produces small purple flowers, which open to form the winged seeds commonly known as keys.



Silver Birch

Background
The Silver Birch is native to Europe and Northern Asia, and is deciduous. Birch is a fast growing tree, so is often used as a nurse crop for slowing growing deciduous trees. It is also the national tree of Finland.

Identification
The Silver Birch leaves are around 6cm long and 4cm across. The tree itself is usually around 20m high. The leaves are distinctive as they are triangular with a course, toothed edge. The bark of the Silver Birch is usually white, and develops dark cracks with age.



Horse Chestnut

Background
Like the oak, this is a tree that most people can recognise, mainly because of the children's game conkers. The tree is deciduous and native to Greece and Albania. The wood of the Horse Chestnut tree is also ideal for woodcarving.

Identification
There are usually 5-7 toothed leaves on a single stalk. Each leaf is usually around 25 cm long. The bark is often redder than the other trees so far, but can also have more of a grey colour. The bark can often be described as "scaly" as it often has cracks running along it.



Wych Elm

Background
The Wych Elm is a deciduous tree native to Europe. The wood is used for furniture, flooring and veneers because of its attractive grain.

Identification
The Wych Elm leaves are around 15cm long and 4cm across. They also have a toothed edge, but are distinctive because of the short sharp point at the end of the leaf. The bark is grey to dark brown as the tree ages, and deep grooves appear as it gets older.




If you have any questions or comments about this article, please don't hesitate to ask in this thread and I will answer as best I can!


I thought that the readers might find this interesting, I did!! but then again I'm a tree-huger.
Lime trees: Rope was made from the inner bark of the Lime tree.
It is known in the trade as basswood, particularly in North America. This name originates from the inner fibrous bark of the tree, known as bast (Old English language). A very strong fibre was obtained from this by peeling off the bark and soaking in water for a month; after which the inner fibres can be easily separated.

Oak tree: In Celtic mythology the Oak tree is the tree of doors, believed to be a gateway between worlds, or a place where portals could be erected.
Britain has more ancient oaks than any other country in western Europe
Oaks don't usually bear acorns until they are about 20 years old.

Sycamore: Although not a native species, the sycamore and its helicopter seeds has become a feature of many local cultures. In Wales, clogs and love-spoons are made from sycamore. In the West country harvest cakes were baked upon sycamore leaves. The most famous sycamore tree is the Martyrs' Tree on Tolpuddle Green in Dorset. In the 1830's the Tolpuddle Martyrs formed the first agricultural trade union beneath this famous tree, as meetings of this kind were illegal in the 1830's so they were deported to Australia. The tree still survives and is currently cared for by the Trades Union Congress.

Conifer,
In the UK we have have only three native conifers, Scots pine, Yew and Juniper.
Legend has it that a 7th century monk from Crediton, Devonshire, went to Germany to teach the Word of God. He used the triangular shape of the Fir Tree to describe the Holy Trinity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and by the 12th century Fir Tree's where being hung from ceilings at Christmastime as a symbol of God's Tree and Christianity.


Beech was said to have been introduced to Britain by the Romans but the discovery of beech pollen dating from 6000 BC in Hampshire proves that this tree is indeed a native and was present in Britain when the country became an island at the end of the last Ice Age.

Whitebeam, in its various local forms, is found in isolated places throughout England, Scotland and Wales. One of these species, S. leyana, is limited in its range to a few shrubs growing near Merthyr Tydfil in Brecon whilst, S. wilmottiana is found only in the Avon Gorge near Bristol.

Quits,

"As we journey under our
individual umbrella's we should not forget we all share the same sky".

"keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come"

This isn't my article but I think you may enjoy reading it.
By the way I like what you have put up.
Native trees or immigrants
There's quite a bit of controversy about which are "native" British trees and which aren't. The purest brigade have shouted the loudest and bullied most people into accepting a cut off point at the formation of the English channel. Anything growing in Britain before the channel formed is considered native and anything appearing after is not. Which is fine up to a point, but it seems that when the channel was born most of Britain was covered in Tundra or melting glaciers which makes the growth and spread of most trees virtually impossible.

Firstly tree seeds need raw earth or competition free soil/humus to grow in, and secondly the seeds need to travel if the species is to spread. Birch seeds are airborne seeds as are Alder, Poplar, Willow, Aspen and Elm, all trees that flourish in wet soils which composed much of early Britain, so it's no surprise that they would establish themselves amongst the soil spills, mud flats and sand banks besides the many waterways in early Britain. Scots Pine was also restablishing itself along with Juniper on the higher rocky grounds and they seem to be the only true native species as they were self establishing or pioneer species.

There are exceptions to this, some of the big seeds that are produced by trees ie. oak have the reserves of energy to compete with grass and heather by been capable of driving their roots below the level of soil competition and tall enough to escape the shading before their energy reserves are exhausted,but the size of oak acorns prevent them from spreading too quickly, it has been established that some species of birds (Jays) will collect acorns for food and on occasion lose them whereby the acorn will colonise new territories. As oak seedlings can only survive and grow in good light in the 'wild', this means that they only colonise open spaces.
However, pollen counts taken from peat bogs laid down in these early days (9000 bc) indicate that other species of tree dominated and I believe that all other species were deliberately introduced by advancing humanity. Just like the nomadic hunter gatherers of the rain-forest plant beneficial trees near their temporary camps, the early inhabitants of Britain after the last ice age also introduced their favourite trees as they moved about.

Mainland Britain had Hazel widely introduced alongside Lime trees, both very useful trees as they both provide food, tools, timber and in the case of Lime trees rope made from the inner bark. These trees although broadleaf and consequently called hard woods are nevertheless soft enough to be cut with stone axes. The pioneer trees also had their uses,but were supplemented with more beneficial trees. Different tribes of nomads would bring their own favourite tree species to Britain. There is coincidental evidence of the Beaker people bringing the Strawberry tree (arbutus unedo) and the Yew to Britain and Ireland from their homelands in Iberia. Oak was introduced along with Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Pear and Apple all around the time that farming appeared. The English Oak was introduced/expanded approx. 4000 BC along with the Holly and Spindle. The Beech tree was initially introduced by some Belgian tribes, they were also reintroduced by some tribes from Germany, (Oak acorns were used as part of the diet, and the trees were widely spread replacing the lime tree as the main sacred tree.) Celts introduced the Sycamore tree from Gaul where they used the ground down seeds to make a flour or gruel from. There seems evidence that without special breeding programs most introduced species of trees take approx 1000 years before they have adapted themselves to compete and grow in the wild with, and amongst other native species. (specialist pollinators,mychorhiza and weather hardiness are just some of the requisites to aid survival) The Sycamore tree was re-introduced by the Normans due to it's hardiness in salt winds near the coastlines, although there's no actual proof of this.

The next influx of foreign trees was in the 16th Century when trees from the far flung corners of the British empire were introduced, none that I know of have yet "naturalised" themselves, but it will happen given time. I have seen self seeding Conker (Hippocastenum) trees, but the young trees seem to be dying at about 15 years old and these were in a derelict garden with no real tree or shrub competition. There are exceptions, like Rhododendron ponticum, Mahonia and Amelanchier all of them reaching large shrub or small tree status, growing in shade and woodland.

So most of our useful trees have been deliberately introduced and probably most of the pioneer species have been helped either by humans or animals, for example birds are well known to pass small seeds from eaten berries. Most of the pioneer species are amongst our rarer trees in the wild, although Birch seems to keep popping up whenever the Forestry commission clear fell some of their forest but outside parks and gardens you won't often find Aspen, Willow, Poplar and Elm.

24-09-2007 03:15 PM
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Dave Perry
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Xeract

I'd be interested to know what sub species of birch is in the photo. I've only seen leaves like that (cut leaves) on sub species of Beech and Alder.

28-05-2008 08:27 PM
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mudskipper
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Here are some tree and shrub flowers that I have posted in the gallery:








This post was last modified: 06-07-2008 09:58 PM by mudskipper.

06-07-2008 09:46 PM
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Yogi.
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Great thread this.

Just a quick question - whats the name of the tree that sheds its bark, I see it about quite a bit. There's a big avenue of them near where I used to live.

As a matter of interest. If your going to buy a wooden chopping board - make sure its made of Beech.

Yogi.


The Bear is looking forward to the new F1 season.
03-01-2009 01:54 PM
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Yogi.
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

As we're onto trees.

Does anyone know how much damage this disease is causing to our Horse Chestnut trees. Apparantly its sweeping the country at a rapid rate.

Yogi.


The Bear is looking forward to the new F1 season.

This post was last modified: 03-01-2009 04:51 PM by Yogi..

03-01-2009 04:50 PM
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maria maria
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Woodmaster Wrote:
Great thread this.

Just a quick question - whats the name of the tree that sheds its bark, I see it about quite a bit. There's a big avenue of them near where I used to live.

As a matter of interest. If your going to buy a wooden chopping board - make sure its made of Beech.

Yogi.



I agree this is a great thread..had'nt noticed it until today! -- possibly the tree you are talking about may be 'Silver Birch, only a guessIcon_rolleyes Why Beech in particular for a chopping board~curious??


A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.
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03-01-2009 10:42 PM
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Yogi.
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

maria maria Wrote:

I agree this is a great thread..had'nt noticed it until today! -- possibly the tree you are talking about may be 'Silver Birch, only a guessIcon_rolleyes Why Beech in particular for a chopping board~curious??


Yeah its a great thread and I only noticed it yesterday, Alex started it 18 months ago.

Maria, as for the beech being used for chopping boards. When I went to Lincoln Christmas Mkt, one of the stalls was all sorts of wood items. I was looking at a chopping board and the guy said Beech is best for chopping boards as it has some sort of a self cleaning and preserving agent in the wood. He went into it in a bit more detail but basically Beech is the wood to have for a chopping board. The one I was looking at was £25 so I passed on that one, it was nice though. Still after a wood chopping board.

Yogi.


The Bear is looking forward to the new F1 season.

This post was last modified: 04-01-2009 08:15 AM by Yogi..

04-01-2009 08:14 AM
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Dave Perry
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

There are a number of trees which shed bark. But non of them are native to the UK.

The one you refer to is probably the London Plane, a common city tree as its bark shedding properties mean the bark stays clean and it is drought resistant. The only other species which sheds bark and occurs in the UK are some of the Australian eucalyptus species.

Chopping boards can be made of many timbers. We've one made of Yew. The main requirement is that the wood is stable when alternatively wet and dry.


http://www.davidwperry.blogspot.com
04-01-2009 08:10 PM
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Yogi.
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Dave Perry Wrote:
There are a number of trees which shed bark. But non of them are native to the UK.

The one you refer to is probably the London Plane, a common city tree as its bark shedding properties mean the bark stays clean and it is drought resistant. The only other species which sheds bark and occurs in the UK are some of the Australian eucalyptus species.

Chopping boards can be made of many timbers. We've one made of Yew. The main requirement is that the wood is stable when alternatively wet and dry.


Aye Dave, checked a book and its the London Plane tree. Thanks.


The Bear is looking forward to the new F1 season.
04-01-2009 09:04 PM
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airbagbaby
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RE: Beginners guide to trees

Love this thread so bumping it up the front page - so to speak.

Treetops quoted from an article & I have to comment on the following :"As oak seedlings can only survive and grow in good light in the 'wild', this means that they only colonise open spaces.

Studying Countryside Management we see the problems of secondary oak woodland brought about by the disuse of our woods as resource. By 'secondary' we mean the opportunistic infill between what may have once been pasture, heathland or coppiced woodland when the ground was more open.

The reason why secondary oakland - or beech etc - is an issue is many and varied. A mono-aged woodland bodes badly for biodiversity - fungi, invertebrates and birds may use an oak at its different ages. In terms of canopy cover - this can be so dense and light-obstructing that it's no surprise we have lost so many ground cover species both flora and fauna. Beech secondary woodland is especially an issue given the very slow decay rate of the leaf litter and its soil-affecting ph properties. If you have a beech hedge, like me, you know nothing grows under it.

If you see a lone big spreading oak tree you may well be standing in a vestige of old pasture whose openess caused by grazing animals allowed it's shape to grow unhindered in times past. However, in oak timber production oaks were so planted in close proximity as to inhibit lateral branch growth and grow straight up and compete for light vertically. This provided greater material yield & long straight beam timber for those empire-building warships.

I love this country's woodland history - I hope it someone else found it so too.

* * * * * * *
As for what is native / introduction I like the story of the swamp cypress Taxodium distichum. Brought here from the swamps of Lousiana/Florida etc it is a deciduous conifer whose fossilized leaves have since been discovered in rocks near the Bournemouth area.

Now - is that a tree that's come home?


"We did not weave the Web of Life; we are merely a strand in it.”
Chief Seattle, Suguamish Tribe, 1854
08-03-2009 03:59 PM
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