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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)












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








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.









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










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











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














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












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










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









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












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













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