3 Most Common Trees in the UK

Trees are essential to the overall health of our planet and vital for its survival. Plants not only provide shelter and food for birds and other wildlife, but they also minimise the risk of flooding. They soak up harmful gases and carbon dioxide whilst releasing oxygen that all living things need to survive. This is why although we do cut down trees for primarily health and safety reasons, Top Tree Surgeons Bristol gets really excited when we get commissioned to plant some trees. If you would like to plants some trees, get in touch today.

So which trees are you most likely to find in the UK, including Bristol? The most common trees found in the UK are a combination of native and non-native trees. Native trees can be defined as the trees that took over after the last Ice Age, before the UK separated from mainland Europe. Non-native trees were brought to the UK and have naturalised or are growing in the wild. Horse chestnut, silver birch and oak and alder are a few of the most popular. This article will walk you through how to easily spot these trees by examining their leaf shape, branches, where they are more likely to grow together with other factors as well.

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)

Horse Chestnut are not native to the UK but to the Balkan Peninsula. They were originally brought over from Turkey in the 16 century. They can get to heights of 40m and thrive for around 300 years. The young bark of a horse chestnut starts off pinkish grey before developing in dark scaly parchment as they mature.

In winter, their firm twigs have large red sticky buds on them and in early spring, the leaves appear and unfold. The palmate leaves are made up of 5 to 7 pointed leaflets emerging from a central stem. Four to five petalled pink and white flowers appear in May and once pollinated, the flowers mature into a reddish brown conker housed in a spiky green husk. The conker then falls in Autumn to the delight of kids and squirrels no doubt. You are more likely to see horse chestnut trees in gardens, parks, avenues and village greens as opposed to in the woods.

tree surgeon planting a tree

Silver Birch (Betula pendula)

Silver Birch are fast growing trees and are natives to the UK. When mature, Silver Birch trees stand at a height of 30 metres. They have a stunning silver-white bark, drooping branches and small triangular-shaped leaves. This is why you are more likely to find them stunningly poised in private gardens. Silver Birch are also planted where the soil quality needs improving. It has roots that can spread widely to return nutrients to the tree which is then returned to the soil when it sheds its leaves. Its leaves turn yellow in autumn and it’s yellow green catkins (flowers) come through in spring. Silver Birch tends to shed its bark layers like thin pieces of paper.

It’s a tree that also provides nutrients and lets in light through its small leaves to the base of its tree. This supports the growth of a variety of mushrooms ( e.g. chanterelle), wood anemones, mosses, bluebells and violets. Around 300 insect species and woodpeckers depend on it for both home and shelter.

English Oak (Quercus robur)

English Oak is native and much loved in the UK for its place in our history and culture. It is very easy to spot the leaves of the iconic English Oak. Its leaves are pale green and about 10 centimetres. They sit on very short stems and have about 4 to 7 round projections resembling ear lobes. Its leaves are pale green and burst out in the middle of May. Both male and female catkins (flowers) sit on the same tree and release pollen in April and May. By autumn, the female flowers which are red in colour, transform into green acorns which turn brown as they ripen. These brown acorns then drop to the ground below ready to sprout in May the following year. Of all the trees in the UK, the English Oak supports more plant and animal life, from fungi to insects to squirrels and badgers, than any other tree. This support is the form of shelter in its crevices and bark where woodpeckers roost. It is also through the provision of nutrients. Its acorns are a source of food for badgers and squirrels and its leaves fall to the ground degrading easily to enrich the soil below with nutrients. You will find oak trees in hedgerows, fields, deer parks and woodland. A mature oak tree can grow between 20 to 20 metres high. If you are happy to wait for 150 years, oak trees provide some of the best timber for construction.

Alder (Alnus glutinosa)

Alder is native to the UK. It thrives in damp conditions or in water or near lakes and river banks. In fact when exposed to too much water as a result of a water log, Alder becomes harder and stronger. It has the ability to thrive in soil that is poor in nutrients and its roots aid in the prevention in soil erosion. The bark of Alder is typically dark with long narrow cracks which you will find often covered in lichen. They are also cone shaped and when mature can extend as much as 28 metres high. The Alder leaves are dark green, leathery and slightly jagged edged. They look almost like a heart-shaped racket. The female flowers that are conical in shape stay on the trees all year long. They flower between February and April, changing into small cone-like fruits in winter. When these open up, the wind and rain ensure the seeds are scattered to germinate.

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