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5 Common Types of Trees

Often times the hardest part of the job for a Tree Surveyor is identifying one type of tree from another, especially in winter when the main identifiers (leaves) are lying strewn on the ground.

The best bit of advice we could give to any budding (pun very much intended) Arboriculturist is to get familiar with 5 common types of trees – the ones most likely to crop up time and again on surveys.

It is that bit of advice that has inspired us to put together this blog post, detailing 5 of the most common tree types in the UK along with tips on how to identify them out in the field.

Read on to find out all about the 5 most common tree types in the UK…


Scientific Name:Fraxinus excelsior

Family: Oleaceau

Origin: Native

About: The Ash is one of the taller of the native trees, often growing to a height of 40m by the time it reaches 50. Living up to 200, even 300 years old, the Ash ceases to grow vertically after its 100th year, instead expanding outwards. It is most often found growing on river banks, in field hedgerows, in meadows, valleys and woodlands.

Interesting Fact: The Manuscript of Edda, written in the second half of the 13th century references the mythological Ash tree Yggdrasil which was considered holy and at the centre of the Cosmos. According to legend, the great Norse Gods would assemble around the base of Yggdrasil to discuss their governance of the earth.

Identify By: The striking black buds that stand out in the winter or the pinnately compound leaves comprising of 3-6 opposite pairs of light green oval leaflets in summer.


Scientific Name:Fagus sylvatica

Family: Fagaceae

Origin: Native

About: This medium to large tree usually reaches a height of 25-30m over a period of 120 years with some known to grow as tall as 45m and live to 300. Most commonly found in woodlands, you will also often see large, mature beech trees lining country roads and lanes, the best example of which is The Dark Hedges in Ballymoney.

Interesting Fact: In Buckinghamshire, the trade of ‘bodging’ was in practice up until as recently as the 1950s. Bodging involved felling a beech tree and immediately sawing and hewing it into pieces which could be transformed on the spot into chair legs.

Identify By: The very long and spindle shaped buds and distinctive beech nuts in the winter or the glossy, dark green ovoid leaves in the summer.


Scientific Name:Acer pseudoplatanus

Family: Sapindaceae

Origin: Non-Native

About: The sycamore tree develops a huge crown with age that spreads out and broadens the older it gets. In a mixed woodland setting, sycamore trees can grow up to 40m in height and, under the right conditions reach a maximum age of 500 years old.

Interesting Fact: In Scotland the sycamore tree was occasionally used as the ‘Dool Tree’, a tree in which unfortunate workers who fell out with the Laird would be hung from.

Identify By: Distinctive, green opposite buds in the winter and large five-lobed leaves in the summer.


Scientific Name:Quercus robur

Family: Fagaceae

Origin: Native

About: This strong and beautiful tree usually grows to a height of 30-35m but has been known to reach as high as 60m. The typical lifespan of an English Oak is 500 years, but it is not uncommon to find specimens between 700 – 1,200 years of age.

Interesting Fact: Traditionally the Oak is known as the ‘King of Trees’ and was regarded by both the Romans and Greeks as the ‘First Tree’.

Identify By: Clustered, ovoid buds in the winter and the instantly recognisable irregularly formed lobed leaves in the summer.

Silver Birch

Scientific Name:Betula pendula

Family: Betulaceae

Origin: Native

About: Smaller and more slender than the other types of tree covered in this article thus far, the Silver Birch can still reach heights of 20-30m though. At 50 years old, most Silver Birch trees practically stop growing vertically altogether and remain at the same height for the rest of their lifespan – usually 100-120 years.

Interesting Fact: The spindly, long and dangling twigs of a Silver Birch made it the ideal candidate to make brooms from in years gone by. It is for this reason that the tree is often associated with witches!

Identify By: All-year-round by the distinctive and eye-catching white bark or by the small, light-green, triangular leaves which fade to a striking yellow in autumn.

Now that you know what to look for in some of the UK’s most common types of trees, get outside and see what you can identify!


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