Abbas & Templecombe Forest School Tree and Plant Identification Manual

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Created by: Abi Bedford

All the information relating to tree/plant identification has been taken from the Woodland Trust website.

Date: April 2016

Abbas & Templecombe

Forest School

Tree and Plant Identification Manual

Contents Page

The Oak Tree 3

The Sycamore Tree 6

The Ash Tree 8

The Hazel Tree 11

The Hawthorn Tree 14

The Elder Tree 17

Tree Information

Our Forest School area has 8 species of trees. These include

oak tree

Oak Tree Information

What does it look like

English Oak is a large deciduous tree up to 20-40m tall. Oak tree growth is rapid in youth, but slows at around 120 years.

Leaves: around 10cm long with 4-5 deep lobes with smooth edges.

Leaf burst occurs mid-May and the leaves have almost no stem and grow in bunches.

Flowers: are long yellow hanging catkins which distribute pollen into the air.

Fruits: its fruits, commonly known as acorns, are 2-2.5cm long, and held tightly by capsules (the cup shaped base of the acorn). As it ripens the green acorn takes on a more autumnal browner colour, loosens from the capsule and falls to the canopy below.

Value to wildlife

Oak trees support more life forms than any other native trees.

They host hundreds of species of insect, supplying many British birds with an important food source.

In autumn mammals such as badgers and deer take advantage of the falling acorns.

Flower and leaf buds of English Oak are the food plants of the caterpillars of purple hairstreak butterflies.

The soft leaves of English Oaks breakdown with ease in autumn and form a rich leaf mould beneath the tree, supporting invertebrates, such as the stag beetle, and numerous fungi like the oak bug milkcap.

Mythology &


In England the oak has been for centuries a national symbol of strength and survival. It has played an important in our culture – couples were wed under ancient oaks in Oliver Cromwell’s time, the festive yule log was traditionally cut from an oak.

The oak feature on the 1987 pound coin and is the inspiration for the emblem of many environmentally focused organisations, including the woodland trust.

How we use oak

Oaks produce one of the hardest and most durable timbers on the planet, even its Latin name, Quercus robur, means strength.

However, it takes up to 150 years before an oak is ready to use in construction.

It was primarily ship building material until the mid-19th century.

Tannin found in the bark has been used to tan leather since at least Roman times.


Acute oak decline (AOD) and chronic oak decline (COD) are serious conditions affecting Britain’s’ Oaks. Key symptoms include canopy thinning, branch dieback and black weeping patches on stems.

Oak Tree Plant identifiaction and the wildlife it supports. leaf acorn

Oak Tree bark Oak Leaf Acorn

oak twig

The oak Tree twig The oakbug milkcap

The purple hairstreak caterpillar and buterfly

The Stag beetle The Badger The Deer

Sycamore Tree Information

sycamore tree

What does it look like

Can grow to 35m and live for 400 years. The bark is dark pink grey and smooth when young, but becomes cracked and develops small plates with age. Twigs are pink brown and hairless.

Leaves: palmate leaves measure 7-16cm and have 5 lobes. Leaf veins are hairy on the inside.

Flowers: small, green-yellow and hang in spikes or racemes.

Fruits: after pollination by wind and insects, female flowers develop into distinctive winged fruits known as samaras.

Identified in winter by: twigs are pink-brown and have no hairs.

Value to wildlife

Sycamore is attractive to aphids and therefore a variety of their predators, such as ladybirds, hoverflies and birds.

The leaves are eaten by caterpillars of a number of moths, including the sycamore moth, plumed prominent and maple prominent.

The flowers provide a good source of pollen and nectar to bees and other insects.

The seeds are eaten by birds and small mammals

Mythology & Symbolism

There is very little folklore associated with sycamore, as it is an introduced species.

However, in Wales, sycamore trees were used in traditional craft making of, ‘love spoons’.

In some parts of the UK the winged seeds are known as helicopters and used in flying competitions and model making by children.

How we use Sycamore

Sycamore timber is hard and strong, pale cream with a fine grain. It is used for making furniture and kitchenware as the wood does not taint or stain the food.

Mature trees are extremely tolerant of wind. They are also tolerant of pollution and therefore tend to be planted in towns/cities.


Sycamore is susceptible to sooty bark, which can lead to wilting of the crown and death of the tree.

It may also be affected by horse chestnut scale insect, which appears as fluffy white spots on the trunk and branches during summer.

Sycamore Tree Identification

sycamore tree sycamore leaves sycamore tree autumn leaves

Sycamore Tree. The leaves have 5 lobes autumn leaves

sycamore leaves and fruit sycamore tree buds sycamore fruit

Very small green flowers Leaf buds are smooth the winged seeds

sycamore bark sycamore twig with budsWhen young the bark is a dark pink-grey Sycamore trees can be

Colour and smooth to touch. Identified in winter by

Threats to Sycamore Tree

Sooty Bark

Horse chestnut scale insect

Ash Tree Information

large healthy ash tree Ash thrives best in fertile, deep and well-drained soil in cool atmospheres. It is native to Europe, Asia and Africa. It dominates British woodland.

What does it look like

Ash trees can reach a height of 35m. Tall and graceful they often grow together, forming a domed canopy.

The bark is brown to grey.

Leaves: pinnately compound, comprising of 6-12 opposite pairs of light green, oval leaflets with long tips – up to 40cm long. The leaves can move in the direction of the sunlight. Another characteristic of ash leaves is that they fall when they are still green.

Flowers: Ash is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers typically grow on different trees, although a single tree can have male and female flowers on different branches.

Both male and female flowers are purple and appear before the leaves in spring, growing in spiked clusters at the tip of the twigs.

Fruits: once the female flowers have pollinated by wind they develop winged fruits, or ‘keys’ in late summer and autumn. They fall from the tree in winter and early spring, and are dispersed by birds and mammals.

Value to wildlife

Value to wildlife

Ash trees make the perfect habitat for a number of different species of wildlife.

The airy canopy and early leaf fall allow sunlight to reach the woodland floor, providing optimum conditions wildflowers such as dog violet, wild garlic and dog’s mercury.

Insects: the rare and threatened high brown fritillary butterfly.

Bullfinches eat the winged seeds and woodpeckers, owls, redstarts and nuthatches use the tree for nesting.

They support deadwood specialists such as the lesser stag beetle.

Ash bark is often covered with lichens and mosses. The leaves are an important food plant for the caterpillars of many species of moth, including the coronet, brick, centre-barred sallow and privet hawk moth.

Mythology & symbolism

The ash tree was thought to have medicinal and mystical properties and the wood was burned to ward off evil spirits. In Norse Viking mythology, ash was referred to as the ‘Tree of Life’. Even today it is known as the ‘Venus of the woods’.

In Britain we regard ash as a healing tree.

How we use Ash

It is one of the toughest hardwoods and absorbs shocks without splintering.

It is used for making tools and sport handles, including hammers, axes, spades, hockey sticks and oars.

As coppices well and traditionally provided wood for firewood and charcoal.


The main threat to Ash is Chalara dieback of ash, a disease caused by a fungus. The disease causes the trees to lose their leaves and the crown to dieback and usually results in their death.

Ash Tree Identification

ash leaf ash buds

The pinnate leaves can move in Buds on as Ash tree are distinctively black and

the direction of sunlight. velvity. ash flower samara bunch

The flowers on the ash tree grow in spiked After pollination the female flowers fruits clusters at the tips of the twigs. Develop into winged fruits clusters. ash samara seeds ash bark

Any fruits that fall from the tree are dispersed The bark ranges in colour from

by birds and mammals pale brown to grey.

Value to wildlife

Dogs Violet Dogs Mercury Wild Garlic

Fritillary Butterfly Lesser Stag Beetle Coronet Moth

Privet Hawk Moth Brick Moth Centre-barred Sallow

Woodpecker Bullfinch Nuthatch Redstart

Threats to the Ash Tree Ash dieback disease

Hazel Tree information

hazel treeHazel is a deciduous broad-leafed tree native to the UK.

What does it look like

Hazel is often coppiced, but when left to grow, trees can reach a height of 12m, where it can live for up to 80years..

It has a smooth, grey brown bark, which peels with age, and bendy hairy stems.

Leaf buds are oval, blunt and hairy.

Leaves: round to oval, doubly toothed, hairy and pointed at the tip. Leaves turn yellow before falling in autumn.

Flowers: Hazel is monoecious, meaning that both male and female flowers are found on the same tree, although hazel flowers must be pollinated by pollen from other hazel trees.

The yellow male catkins appear before the leaves and hang in clusters, from mid-February. Female flowers are tiny and budlike with red styles.

Fruits: once pollinated by wind the female flowers develop into oval fruits, which hang in groups of one to four. They mature into a nut with a woody shell surrounded by a cup of leafy bracts (modified leaves)

Leaves are soft to touch as a result of the downy hairs on the underside.

Value to wildlife

Hazel leaves provide food for the caterpillars of many moths, including the large emerald, small white wave, barred umber and nut tree tussock.

Coppiced hazel also provides shelter for ground nesting birds such as the nightingale, nightjar, yellow hammer and willow warbler.

The hazel nuts are eaten by dormouse to fatten up for hibernation. The dormice also eat the caterpillars that feed off the hazel leaves.

The hazel nuts are also eaten by woodpeckers, nuthatches, tits, woodpigeons, jays and a number of small mammals. Hazel flowers provide early pollen for bees.

The trunks are often covered in mosses, liverworts and lichens and the fiery milkcap fungi grow in the soil beneath.

Mythology & Symbolism

Mythology & Symbolism

Hazel has a reputation as a magical tree. A hazel rod is supposed to protect against evil spirits, as well as being used as a wand and for water-divining. In some parts of England hazel nuts were carried as charms and used to ward off rheumatism. In Ireland hazel was known as the ‘Tree of Knowledge’.

How we use hazel

Hazel wood can be twisted or knotted, and as such it historically had many uses. These included thatching spars, net stakes, water-divining sticks, hurdles and furniture. Hazel was also valued for its nuts.

Today hazel has become an important management strategy in conservation of woodland habitats for wildlife.

It is used as pea sticks and bean poles by gardeners.


Hazel is not known to suffer from any particular pest or disease. It occasionally may be attacked by aphids, gall mites and sawflies.

Coppiced hazel is susceptible to deer damage if not protected. This is done by spreading a layer of earth/dirt over the coppiced stem.

Hazel Tree Picture Identification

hazel leaf hazel flowers hazel catkins

Leaves are rounded/hairy. Female flowers have red styles. Yelow male catkins.

hazel fruithazel twighazel coppice

Hazel nuts Leaf buds are oval & blunt

Value to Wildflife

Large Emerald butterfly Nutree Tussock Moth Nutree Tussock Caterpillar

Nightingale Nightjar Willowwarbler

Woodpigeon Jay Bee

Milkcap fungi Lichen Liverworts

Hawthorn Tree Identification

hawthorn shrub The Hawthorn is a decideous tree native to the UK. It is also known as the May-tree due to it’s flowering period. It is the only British plant named after the month in which it blooms.

What does it look like

Mature trees can reach a height of 15m and are characterised by their dense thorny habit, though they can grow as a small tree with a single stem.

The bark is brown grey knotted and the twigs are slender and brown covered in thorns.

Leaves: Leaves are 6cm in length and comprised of tooth lobes, They turn yellow before falling in the autumn.

Flowers: hawthorns are hermaphrodite, meaning both male and female reproductive parts are contained within each flower.

Flowers are highly scented, white or occasionally pink with 5 petals and grow in flat topped clusters.

Fruits: Once pollinated by insects, they develop into deep red fruits known as ‘haws’.

Identified in winter by: the spines emerge from the same point as the buds; distinguishing them from blackthorn in winter which has buds on the spines.

Value to wildlife

Common Hawthorn can support 300 insects.

It is the food plant for caterpillars of many moths, including the hawthorn, orchard ermine, pear leaf blister, rhomboid tortrix, light emerald,lackey, vapourer, fruitlet mining and lappit moths.

Its flowers are eaten by dormice and provide nectar and pollen for bees and other pollinating insects.

The haws are rich in antioxidants and are eaten by many migrating birds, such as redwings, fieldfares and thrushes, as well as small mammals.

The dense thorny foliage makes fantastic nesting shelter for many species of bird.

Mythology & Symbolism

Mythology & Symbolism

In Britain it was believed that bringing hawthorn blossom into your house would be followed by illness and death. It was said that in medieval times the hawthorn blossom smelt like the Great Plague.

Botanists learned that the chemical trimethylamine in hawthorn blossom is also one of the first chemicals formed in decaying animal tissue, so it is not surprising flowers are associated with death.

How we use Hawthorn

Common hawthorn timber is a creamy brown colour, finely grained and very hard. It can be used in turnery and engraving and was used to make veneers and cabinets, tool handles and boat parts.

It makes good firewood and charcoal and has a reputation for burning at high temperatures.

It is used as a hedging plant.


Hawthorn may be prone to aphid attack, gall mites and the bacterial disease fireblight.

Hawthorn Tree Picture Identification

hawthorn leaf hawthorn flowers hawthorn haws

Leaves are 6cm & have tooth lobes Hawthorn flowers Deep red fruit – ‘haws’.

haws hawthorn twig hawthorn bark

A bunch or hawthorn berries/haws Hawthorn buds Bark is brown/grey & knotted

Hawthorn Tree - Value to wildlife

Orchard ermine moth Fruitlet Mining Moth Lappit Moth

Fieldfare bird

Threats to Hawthorn

Hawthron Fire blight

Elder Tree Information

elder canopy and flowers Elder is a small decideous tree, native to the UK. It is thought that name elder comes from the Anglo-saxon ‘aeld’ meaning fire, because the hollow stems were used as bellows to blow air into the centre of fire. It often grows near rabbit warrens or badger sets, where the animals distribute the seed via their droppings.

What does it look like

Mature trees grow to a height of 15 and can live for 60 years.

Elder is characterised by its short trunk (bole) and grey brown corky, furrowed bark.

Leaves: Pinnate (resembling a feather) with 5-7 oval and toothed leaflets and smell bad when touched.

Flowers: Flowers are creamy coloured, 10-30cm across, highly scented and have 5 petals.

Fruits: after pollination by insects, each flower develops into a small, purple black, sour berry, which ripens from late summer to autumn.

Elders are hermaphrodite.

Could be confused with: Walnut, however, elder has oppositely arranged leaves whereas walnut has alternately arranged leaves.

Identified in winter by: the green unpleasant smelling twigs are hollow and have a white pitch inside. Buds have rugged appearance often with leaves showing through the bud scales.

Value to wildlife

The flowers provide nectar for a variety of insects and the berries are eaten by birds and mammals – dormice and bank voles eat the berries and flowers.

Many moth caterpillars feed on elder foliage, including the white spotted pug, swallowtail, dot moth and buff ermine.

Mythology & Symbolism

It was though if you burned elder wood you would see the devil, but if you planted elder by your house it would keep the devil away.

How we use Elder

How we use Elder

Mature wood is used for whittling and carving, while smaller stems can be hollowed out to make craft items.

The flowers and berries are mildly poisonous, so should be cooked before eating. The leaves are also poisonous.

The flowers are often used to make wine, cordial or tea or fried to make fritters. The vitamin C rich berries are often used to make preserves and wine and can be baked in a pie with blackberries. They are also used to make natural dyes.

Elder is a popular tree for gardens.


Elder may be susceptible to black fly and sap suckling red spider mite.

Elder Tree Picture Identification

elder leaf elderflowers elder twig with fruit growth

Leaves are pinnate with 5-7 leaves. Cream coloured flowers

elder berries elder bark

Small purple black berries Corky grey/brown furrowed bark.

Value to wildlife

Swallowtail butterfly Spotted pug moth Dot moth

Value to wildlife

Bank vole Dormice


Threats to Elder

Sap & suckling red spider black fly

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