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Identifying tree species

How do you identify different tree species?

The UK has at least 50 species of native trees and shrubs, including three native conifers. However, there are many more species of 'introduced' non-native trees.

These can be divided into tree families, such as the beech family, elm family or lime family.

Some tree families have one only species of tree in them, others have many more.

Trees from the same family usually share identifiable characteristics.

Different trees species are normally identified by their:

  • overall shape and height
  • leaf or needle shapes, colour and size

For that reason, it is usually easier to identify trees during the summer than in other seasons.

However, it is also possible to identify trees by their buds, fruits, flowers, cones and bark.

More guidance on identifying different species of trees can be found on the Woodland Trust’s new British Trees website - due to go live very soon!

In our experience, the most commonly found ancient tree species are:

1 Common oak Quercus robur
2 Common yew Taxus baccata
3 Sweet chestnut Castanea sativa
4 Common beech
Fagus sylvatica
5 Common ash
Fraxinus excelsior
6 Hornbeam
Carpinus betulus
7 Field maple
Acer campestre
8 Sycamore
Acer pseudoplatanus
9 Common lime
Tilia x europaea
10 Hawthorn
Crataegus monogyna

Identifying trees. Photo: Jon Parsons

A three hug oak. Photo: J Attenborough