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Winter Tree Identification

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Tree species can be particularly tricky to identify in winter. Along with checking around underneath the tree for leaves there are several features that can help identify common UK species:

Alder Alnus glutinosa
A common tree in moist conditions such as wet woodlands, marshes and near riversides.
Identifying features:
• Woody cone-like fruit and catkins
• Attractive purple buds arranged in a spiral around the branch
• Purplish twigs with small orange markings (lenticels)
Alnus_glutinosa_budAlnus_glutinosa_catkins

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ash Fraxinus excelsior
One of the most common and easily identifiable tree in our woodlands.
Identifying features:
• Upward curving shoots, often these can be seen from a distance
• Sooty black buds arranged in opposite pairs against pale branches
Fraxinus_excelsior bud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beech Fagus sylvatica
Introduced into the north of England, it is now a common tree throughout our landscape
Identifying features:
• Elongated, sharply pointed buds arranged alternately on the branch. Often a coppery colour
• Often retains dead leaves over winter, particularly on young trees or on the lower branches
Fagus_sylvatica_buds
Fagus_sylvatica_LEAVES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birch, Silver Betula pendula
An attractive tree common in woodland particularly up hillsides
Identifying features:
• Pale, silvery bark often with black lines or diamond shapes
• Small alternate egg-shaped buds on reddish shoots.
Betula_pendula_bark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elder Sambucus nigra
A widespread tree common in hedgerows with white flowers used to make products such as elderflower cordial
Identifying features:
• Unpleasant smelling twigs, with pith at the centre rather than wood
• Purple, spikey buds arranged in opposite pairs
• Beige-grey bark which is very rugged

Elder barkSambucus_nigra_buds

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna
Another common hedgerow tree the berries of which (haws) are eaten by a variety of birds.
Identifying features:
• Spines emerging from the same point as the buds (distinguishing them from blackthorn)
• May have some red fruits known as haws if the birds haven’t eaten them all
Crataegus_monogyna_NRMCrataegus_monogyna_bud_spine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hazel Corylus avellana
Often coppiced, it can usually be found as a small tree or large shrub
Identifying features:
• Hazel nuts held in a short leafy husk
• Short blunt buds on a hairy shoot
800px-Corylus-avellana-20-02-2010_1831024px-Corylus_avellana_(Bud_leaf_and_fertilized_flower)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hornbeam Carpinus betulus
Often mistaken to the unrelated beech, but with some distinct differences.
Identifying features:
• Papery seeds which hang in clusters throughout autumn
• Green-brown sharply pointed buds similar to beech but lie flat rather than sticking out at an angle

Carpinus_fruitCarpinus_betulus_bud

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum

A deciduous broadleaf tree native to the Balkan peninsula and now widespread in the UK, famous for producing the conker.
Identifying features:
• Large sticky red buds arranged in opposite pairs
20140225Aesculus_hippocastanum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak
There are two native species of oak in the uk which can be difficult to distinguish between over winter.
Identifying features:
• Large egg-shaped buds. Clustered terminal buds at the end of shoots
774px-Quercus_robur_pąki002

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pendunculate Quercus robur
• Longer stalks on acorns, shorter stalks on leaves
Robur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sessile Quercus petraea
• Shorter stalk on accords, longer stalks on leaves
sessile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sycamore Acer pseudoplatanus
Introduced to the UK in the Middle Ages, it is now a naturalised species common in our woodlands
Identifying features:
• Large green sometimes with brown tips buds arranged in opposite pairs
• Leaf scars are larger than the bud and bowl shaped
Acer_pseudoplatanus_buds3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willow, goat Salix caprea
Also known as the pussy willow it is the easiest willow to recognise out of the 18 native species.
Identifying features:
• Rounded chestnut brown buds arranged in a spiral
• Buds have a fluffy interior when broken open
20140209Salix_caprea4