Our beginner’s guide to identifying trees
- Posted on
- By Josephine Walbank
- Posted in 1000 hours outside, children unplugged, children's outdoor furniture, education, Garden, outdoor play, outdoor play area, trees, wood
At Mini Beee we think that one of the best ways to celebrate the beauty of our forests is to learn more about them. In order to truly appreciate the wide variety of wildlife that are contained in these forests, we need to find out more about each species that lives there, how they grow and what they do.
There’s something wonderfully magical about stepping into a forest. No matter how old we are, we never lose that sense of awe when we first enter a lush, green forest.
It’s the very embodiment of Mother Nature on Earth; you can imagine that it’s been exactly this way - ignoring us humans - for decades, even hundreds of years.
We all want to do our bit to protect these forests. They are a part of our heritage, they do wonders to protect our planet, and they are amongst the most beautiful sites that you can experience, which are freely available for everyone to enjoy.
They’re also an abundant source of fascinating facts. For example, did you know that around 4 billion hectares of the Earth’s land is covered in forests? That’s 30% of our planet’s land!
What’s more, these forests contain hundreds of billions of trees. In 2015 it was estimated that there are three trillion trees on our planet.
Put it this way; you’ll never be short of new things to learn.
Forests are all about showing us the sheer ability of nature. To cultivate that sense of amazement (plus a life-long love of exploring) in your children, we say that there’s nothing better than helping them to learn more about the forest.
So, to help you understand the relationship between different species of trees and how they all work together in a forest, we’ve dedicated this blog to tree spotting.
Read on to find out how to identify some of Europe’s most common tree types, plus some discovery tools to help you on your way.
8 of Europe’s most common trees
Latin name: Alnus glutinosa
Where you can spot it: Alder trees are most commonly found in marshes or wet areas of the woods because they are known to thrive in moist ground.
How you can identify an Alder: Alder trees have distinctive female catkins. These are small brown cones, which are attached to the tree’s branches. They stay on the tree throughout the entire year.
Fun fact: According to folklore, fairies use the flowers of Alder trees to dye their clothes.
Latin name: Larix decidua (also known as a European Larch).
Where you can spot it: Larch trees across central Europe (where the species originates) and are also common in the UK.
How you can identify a Larch: Larch trees have a pink-brown bark, which is thick, embedded with deep and wide vertical fissures. They also have distinctive pink-orange twigs, covered in clusters of needles and tiny cones.
Fun fact: Larch trees can live for 250 years!
Latin name: Picea abies
Where you can spot it: Spruce trees are native to Scandinavia and originally come from Europe’s mountainous areas (they are also often called the Norway Spruce).
How you can identify a Spruce: Spruce trees are evergreen conifers (which mean their leaves are green all year round). Older trees have a dark bark, which is a purple-brown colour. The flowers of the female part of the plant usually sit near the top of the tree and are bright red.
Fun fact: Spruces can grow to be 40 metres high.
Latin name: Populus
Where you can spot it: Poplar trees can be found in deciduous forests. They are also popular additions to parks or to decorate luxury gardens.
How you can identify a Poplar: Poplar trees are known for their grey-white-black bark and highly distinctive leaves. The white poplar tree (the most common poplar variety) is green on the top and silver underneath. So, when it’s windy, the tree looks like it’s sparkling.
Fun fact: There are several varieties of poplar trees, including the white poplar, the black poplar and the balsam poplar.
Latin name: Eucalyptus sp.
Where you can spot it: Eucalyptus trees are native to Australia, but 12 of its species can be found in the warmer parts of Europe.
How you can identify a Eucalyptus: These trees are most easily recognised by their highly distinctive leaves. These leaves are a blue-green colour and sit in pairs alongside the branch. They are round, don’t have stems, and when you crush them, they smell wonderful (naturally concentrated Eucalyptus oil!).
Fun fact: The flowers of the Eucalyptus tree have a wooden pod in the centre (this is where the tree’s seeds come from).
Latin name: Carpinus betulus
Where you can spot it: These solid and gnarled trees are native to the UK. They are also found in Europe and East Asia.
How you can identify a Hornbeam: These trees have oval leaves with a pointy tip. Use these leaves to identify the tree, as they have a distinctive pleated appearance, and they stay on the tree all year round. Also, the tree’s female catkins appear as thin flower-like green fruits.
Fun fact: Hornbeam trees also have male catkins on them, making them monoecious (a type of tree with both genders of catkins coexisting on it).
The European Beech
Latin name: Fagus sylvatica (also known as a Common Beech)
Where you can spot it: These beautiful big trees are most commonly found in the UK, where they are a native tree species. But they are known to live across Europe, covering areas from Sweden to Sicily.
How you can identify a European Beech: These trees can reach heights of over 40 metres. When they grow into adult trees, they take on a domed shape. Their leaf buds have hairy edges and sit in a short, red-brown stalk.
Fun fact: Beechwood is popular in the use of smoking food, particularly herring.
Latin name: Fraxinus excelsior (also known as European Ash)
Where you can spot it: Ash trees are Britain’s third most common tree species. They can be found in cooler climates, in deep soil. They grow across Europe, as well as parts of Asia and Africa.
How you can identify an Ash: Ash trees have distinctive clusters of black seed buds with a velvet-like texture. Another notable feature is the ‘keys’ which the female catkins eventually form. Their winged leaves are designed to flutter down and scatter the tree seeds.
Fun fact: Ash trees can often be found growing in groups, which creates the feeling of entering a huge natural canopy.
Tools to help with tree spotting
These digital tools, apps and resources are brilliant helpers for your tree spotting journey:
- Woodland Trust Tree ID App
- Woodland Trust Leaf ID Sheets
- Woodland Trust Twig ID Sheets
- Twinkl Tree Identification Sheet
- PlantNet App
- iNaturalist App
- LeafSnap App
We think that one of the best ways to celebrate the beauty of our forests is to learn more about them. In order to truly appreciate the wide variety of wildlife that are contained in these forests, we need to find out more about each species that lives there, how they grow and what they do.
And this doesn’t just go for our kids - adults can also learn so much about forests and trees simply by reading up on the topic.
Not only is this a great way to promote an enthusiasm for eco-conscious living, but this is a brilliant way to get the little ones excited about heading out for the day.
On your next trip to the forest, put your knowledge to the test. See how many trees you and your kids can accurately name. It’s such a simple game, but you’ll find that it’s a lot of fun (especially when everyone gets competitive!).
At Mini Beee, we create wooden children’s furniture that respects the natural world. Our sustainable, eco-conscious production process is designed to leave a minimal impact on the environment while providing you with a beautiful garden piece that your family can treasure for a lifetime.
If you’d like to find out more about our range of kids’ garden furnishings, have a browse through our online shop.
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