Continuing my love affair with all things tree and in keeping with ‘best of British’, have a gander at 5 trees native to Britain. By native, we mean trees that are at home in Britain and have grown in the country for thousands of years. I’ve included two images of the beautiful birch trees that I mentioned in Trees and Water Part I.
All of these can be planted in your garden (should you have the space) and are fantastic to have as they encourage native insect and bird life.
Alder, Alnus glutinosa
- A quick-growing, nitrogen-fixing, insect-harbouring, bird-loving son of a gun
Planting an alder is a great way to invite birds and insects to live in your garden. These trees grow fast and love damp soil. In the winter, male catkins and female cones dangle from the branches. Its timber was used as a lure for woodworm, which would
prefer to eat away at a block of alder wood placed in a wooden cupboard than the cupboard itself.
Ash, Fraxinus excelsior
- A grand tree shrouded in mystery and folklore
For the Vikings, their ‘world tree’ was an ash: Yggdrasil united heaven, hell and earth. Many pagans saw the ash as a healing tree, and used it in ceremonies and treatments. The wood is very springy and can withstand sudden shocks, so is great for snooker cues and hockey sticks.
English oak, Quercus robur
- Famous for having strong timber, being a home for insects, and for living to a ripe old age
Oaks grow all over Britain. They’re the best at attracting insects (who’ll help to pollinate other plants in your garden)
and can live for over 500 years. Talk about heritage!
Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna
- Its white flowers are a welcome sign of spring after a long winter
The hawthorn is also known as the May tree, and you’ve probably seen loads of its beautiful white flowers blooming in the month of May. Used in spring ceremonies, this tree also has more practical uses and its berries are thought to benefit the heart
and to lower blood pressure.
Hazel, Corylus avellana
- Nut bearing, food for humans and animals alike
If you grow a hazel, you can look forward to harvesting the tasty nuts and perhaps sharing them with garden friends such as squirrels and dormice. The catkins that grow on hazels also look pretty cool – they’re known as lamb’s tails.
So, there you have it. Five gorgeous trees for your garden, most bearing Nature’s bounty for the two legged, four legged (and even six and eight legged) alike.
You’ll need to forgive me if I don’t wax lyrical much more. Mrs Fitzsimmons took exception to my ‘plant a tree / bring a bonsai’ station at the water cooler and in protest, I’ve lashed myself to said water cooler as a last ditch stand. I see things going pear-shaped right smartly!
‘Plant a Tree! Plant a Tree!’
*Excerpts from 10 British trees to grow in your garden.