Holly’s Tree Identification Record Book

This record book will help you identify and become familiar with 30 British tree species.  Of these 21 are native, 5 are naturalised or commonly found broadleaved trees and there are 4 commercial exotic conifers.

The idea of this booklet is for you to gradually build up knowledge of British trees. You will note that the correct conventions are used for plant naming, i.e. Capital letter for the generic name and small (lower case) letters for the specific name.

The trees in the Record book are listed in the following order:

  • Native trees (mainly deciduous)
  • Introduced or naturalised none native broadleaves
  • Commercial exotic conifers 


Acer campestre  (Field Maple) Calcareous soils in southern UK

Country of Origin:  UK and Europe Ultimate height:  15m but usually as a  shrubby  bush less than 5m

Main Feature(s): Small shrubby tree often multi stemmed.  Typical maple and like a small sycamore.  An ancient woodland indicator species.

Description: Typical maple with leaves in pairs arranged opposite each other.  Leaves generally small (4-5cm) and tri lobed.  Bark pale brown with fine white vertical lines.  Shoots and buds much finer and smaller than sycamore but similar

Family:   Aceraceae

Alnus glutinosa   (Alder) Moist/water-logged sites

Country of Origin: Europe and UK 

Main Feature(s): The leaves will never come to a point, a slight indentation, but no point. 

Ultimate height:    25 metres

Description: The leaves alternate on the stem, they have deep veins on the leaves. The dark, leathery leaves can be up to 10cm, they can also have shallow random lobes. It can have catkins and fruit on up to 5cm long. 

Family:  Betulaceae

Betula pendula  (Silver Birch) Dry acid sites and cold exposed sites

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Asia Minor

Main Feature(s): It has a whitish bark, with thin roughly, woody twigs and the leaves alternate down these stems. The simple leaves are not lobed but intermediately, double toothed with a tapered point. They are hairless and hold quite a triangular shape. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres

Description: The twigs start to weep downwards, and the male flowers drop catkins of about 3cm long, whilst the female flowers are upright between 1.2 – 2 cm in height. The leaves are on average 4cm long and 2.5 in width, along the widest part. 

Family:  Betulaceae

Carpinus betulus   (Hornbeam) Calcareous soils

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Asia Minor

Main Feature(s): The leaves that are about 7cm in length have deep, parallel veins and are dark green in colouring. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres

Description: The leaves are very similar to the common beech leaves, this type is a simple, double toothed, linear leaf, often found in hedge rows. The width of these leaves is smaller than the length of the leaf. The trees are quite hardy and can grow in a variety of soils. 

Family:   Carpinaceae

Corylus avellana   (Hazel)

Country of Origin: Europe, UK, Scotland and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Edible cobs develop early spring from the fertilised female flower, which grow in groups of 2-4. The tree itself branches out from several stems which gives it more width than height. 

Ultimate height 10 metres

Description: A Hazel leaf has a simple, linear, double toothed leaf structure, which are hairy thus giving it a rough texture. They are a very roundish leaf which has an abrupt point and grow alternately on the stem.

Family:  Corylaceae

Crataegus monogyna    (Hawthorn) Red fruits and exposed inland or coastal sites

Country of Origin: Europe, UK, North West Africa and Western Asia.

Main Feature(s): The leaves are lobed and toothed in a random order and size, each leave looks different, but are all of a dark colouring 

Ultimate height: 10 metres

Description: It flowers late spring, and has red berries that grow in groups of about 4-6. The leaf is of a simple structure, it has a thorny, pinately lobed edge, with the widest part near the base. The leaves are very close together on the hard, woody stem. The leaves are of an average length of 4cm long and the widest part can be just as wide as long.

Family:  Rosaceae

Fagus sylvatica    (Beech)

Country of Origin: South and West Europe also UK.

Main Feature(s): To the touch this leaf is very smooth and silky, each of the leaves have a simple and very similar appearance.   

Ultimate height: 40 metres

Description: The leaf is a simple, un-lobed shiny dark green leaf. It is slightly toothed and of a roundish shape. It can grow up to 10cm long, thus being longer than wide. The widest part of the leaf is central, and the veins, which are quite deep, are paired. This tree is one of the UKs tallest broadleaves. 

Family:  Fagaceae

Fraxinus excelsior   (Common Ash) Calcareous soils

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): The black buds on Ash makes it easier to identify. 

Ultimate height: rarely up to 40 metres, but most commonly no more than 30 metres.

Description: The leaves are made up of between 9-13 leaflets. These stalkless leaflets are of a compound pinnate structure and are on opposite pairs on the leaf. They are intermediately toothed and always end in a point. The fruit, which grows to about 4cms, is single winged and of a brown/greenish colour, which hang in clusters on the branches. 

Family:  Oleaceae

Ilex aquifolium   (Holly) Dry shade and attractive fruits

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Ireland, West Asia.

Main Feature(s): This evergreen has very distinct, sharply toothed leaves accompanied by small, toxic red berries in the correct season. 

Ultimate height: 23 metres 

Description: The tree itself is often used in hedgerows, the leaf has a simple, dark green, spiny structure and grows closely together up the stem. Some varieties may be spineless, and the red berries are only on the female trees. 

Family:  Aquifoliaceae

Malus sylvestris   (Wild/Crab Apple) Attractive fruits

Country of Origin: Europe, UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): The bark on these trees are quite easy to identify and the leaves have a rough appearance and slight texture. 

Ultimate height: uncommon to see it around 17 metres, more commonly 10 to 15 meters

Description: This deciduous tree has a simple, roundish toothed leaf structure, which has a bud at the base of the stalk and edible fruits. The leaf has a paler underneath and has a length of 6cms. The fruits have a slightly pink underside and are quite hard and acidic. 

Family:  Rosaceae

Populus tremula   (Aspen) Well drained uplands and wetland fringes 

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): The leaves have flat stalks, and make a distinct sound as the wind passes between the leaves. The leaves start off a copper colour then soon become green and with that they lose the hair. 

Description: The leaf is a rounded compound leaf which has large curved teeth, it can be up to 7cm across.  They have a pointed tip, and quite faint veins and grow on a rough woody stem. It has 4cm long catkins that droop down and are of a purple colouring.

Family:  Pinaceae

Prunus avium   (Wild cherry) Fertile brown earths

Country of Origin: UK, Ireland

Ultimate height: 25 to 30 metres 

Description: They have 3cm wide, 5 petalled white flowers, which are borne in clusters. It is a simple, oval leaf structure with blunt irregular, intermediate teeth. The branches have nodules, and the flowers spring out from the base of the stem along with the alternate leaves. 

Family:  Pinaceae

Prunus padus   (Bird Cherry) Hedgerows and upland oak woods

Country of Origin: Scotland, Ireland and UK

Main Feature(s): The 8mm long fruit, are small black when ripe, have their own stalk and are very bitter. 

Ultimate height: 15 metres, but most commonly around 10 metres

Description: Matt, dark green, simple linear leaves, with small teeth. The leaves grow alternately on the stem, these leaves can grow up to 10cm in length. The bark is dull and rough to the touch.

Family:  Rosaceae

Pinus sylvestris   (Scots pine) Dry acid soils

Country of Origin: Native to British Isles, Scotland Evergreen, conifer 

Main Feature(s): Needles grow in pairs, they are no longer than 9cm. Oval shaped cones grow to 8cm with a whitish grey colouring to the scales. 

Ultimate height: 35 metres 

Description: The needle like leaves are stiff but wispy and sometimes have a silvery white tint and they are longer on younger trees. Lower branches on the tree die and fall over time. The female flower points upwards and has a yellowy orange colouring. 

Family:  Pinaceae

Quercus petrea   (Sessile Oak)

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Leaves are stalked and the acorns (fruit) are not stalked.

Ultimate height: seen at 42 metres before 

Description: The leaf stalks are about 1 – 2 cm long, and alternate up the stem. The leaves are of a simple, shallow, pinately lobed structure. There are 3 to 8 lobes on a leaf, age dependant. The buds are clustered together at the end of the stalk.

Family:  Fagaceae

Quercus robur    (Common Oak or Pedunculate Oak)

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Leaves are not stalked but the fruits are. The stalks for the acorns, of which grow in pairs, range around 5 – 12cms. 

Ultimate height: 38 metres

Description: The leaf structure is very similar to that of a sessile oak, as stated above. The leaves have irregular lobes but at the base it will always have a pair of small lobes. The widest part of this leaf is the centre lobes. 

Family:  Fagaceae

Sorbus aucuparia    (Mountain Ash or Rowan) Attractive fruits and dry, acid soils and exposed inland sites

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Rowan has a strong smell. The leaflets are dark green, tapered, stalkless, intermediately, deep toothed and normally about 15 to a leaf. 

Ultimate height: 25 metres 

Description: They have a cluster of pale whitish yellow, 5 petalled flowers and the red berries are up to 8mm round. The opposite leaflets on the leaf, and a single leaflet on the tip. These compound pinately leaflets are longer than wide and looks quite similar to the Sorbus domestica. 

Family:  Rosaceae

Taxus baccata   (Yew) Calcareous/alkaline sites

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): Leaves are flat on the twig rather than all the way round (hedgehog like). Red outer berry with a greenish fruit inside. (poisonous)

Ultimate height: 20 metres

Description: This evergreen conifer has 30 x 3mm long linear leaves which end in a point. These leaves are dark on top but have a yellowish underside. The male flowers release a cloud of pollen early spring.  

Family:  Taxaceae

Tilia cordata  (Small-leaved Lime) Well drained brown earths

Country of Origin: UK

Main Feature(s): These long stalked leaves are hairless, but a little rust coloured tuffs can be found alongside the veins underneath. They have smaller linerar leaves bearing the smooth fruit. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres 

Description: This deciduous broadleaf has heart shaped leaves, these leaves are on average 3 to 8cm long. The leaves have regular intermediate teeth. The leaves are normally in clusters of 3 to 10. These heart shaped leaves end in an abrupt tapered point. 

Family:  Tiliaceae

Tilia platyphyllos  (Large-leaved Lime) Well drained brown earths – the south

Country of Origin: UK and Wales

Main Feature(s): Hair on stalks, leaf like bract and hairs on fruit. There are no fruits and leaves at the base of this tree.

Ultimate height: 40 metres

Description: Suckers are often found at the base of these whitish haired, heart shaped leaf. The alternate leaves are of a dark and dull colouring, they are about 10 to 15 cm long. Very similar to the small leaved lime, but this has larger leaves with whiter hairs.

Family:  Tiliaceae

Ulmus glabra  (Wych Elm)

Country of Origin: UK and Ireland

Main Feature(s): This leave has deep veins and has a asymmetrical base. They are the only elms to have hairs on both sides of the leaf. They are well toothed and have a pointed tip. The leaf isn’t shiny. 

Ultimate height: 30 metres 

Description: This deciduous broadleaf has a simple, linear leaf structure and is of a dark green colouring. The shoots are dark grey and have hard ridges, and the buds are dark, almost purple and have hairs. The oval shaped leaf is about 10-16cm long and alternates up the twig. 

Family:  Ulmaceae


Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore) Polluted atmosphere and cold, exposed sites

Country of Origin: Europe

Main Feature(s): This tree has 5 lobed stalked leaves and is the only tree susceptible to the black spot disease. 

Ultimate height: 35 metres

Description:       It has a simple leaf structure and is deeply palmatley lobed, with small teeth along all the lobes. The size of a leaf is large and about 16 x 23 on young trees. They have a long stalk and it can be easily broken off the twig. They have winged “helicopter” seeds which wings fan in and then outwards at the two ends. 

Family:   Aceraceae

Castanea sativa    (Sweet or Spanish Chestnut) Dry, acid soils and frost free

Country of Origin: Europe

Main Feature(s): Long thin, toothed leathery leaf. The fruits, it can be up to 4cm in diameter holding 2 to 3 edible nuts. 

Ultimate height: up to 30 metres high

Description: This simple, narrow leaved tree has very distinguishable leaves. It has golden yellow flowers between the asymmetrical leaf pattern.  

Family:   Fagaceae

Salix x sepulcralis “Chrysocoma”        (Weeping Willow) Weeping habit (pendulous)

Country of Origin:

Main Feature(s): Leaves wisp downwards along the stem and are much longer than wide.  

Ultimate height: 25 metres 

Description: This deciduous tree has a simple, linear, minutely toothed leaf structure, of which are over 10cm in length. They grow alternately down the long stem. Their catkins are of a yellowish colouring and can grow to 7.5cms long. 

Family:  Salicaceae

Platanus x hispanica   (London Plane) Bold foliage and attractive bark

Country of Origin: S. France / Spain

Main Feature(s): Simple palmately, shiny, 5 lobed leaves grow alternately up the twig.  

Ultimate height: 35 metres  

Description: The leaves are quite thick and leathery, they are about 20cm long and wide, it does widely vary though. They are of a deep green colouring but paler underneath. They have long stalks and variable lobbing, but very defined. 

Family:  Platanaceae

Aesculus hippocastanum   (Horse Chestnut) Bold foliage and attractive fruits

Country of Origin: South East Europe

Main Feature(s): Compound palmately leaf structure with 5 or 7 stalkless leaflets. 

Ultimate height: 39 metres 

Description: This deciduous broadleaf tree has a jaggered double toothed edge. The leaflets  vary in length, with the shortest closest to the twig. In autumn they bear a spiny husk which holds 1 to 2 fruits inside, also known as conkers. The veins on the leaflets are quite bold and the leaf has a dry rustle to it.

Family: Hippocastanaceae

Larix Decidua    (Common Larch) Traditional European plantation species


Country of Origin: Europe 

Main Feature(s): The only deciduous conifer. Cones grow to 4cm long. The needle like leaves grow in bunches. They have two pale bands beneath. 

Ultimate height: to 45 metres

Description: The female flowers hang downwards and are cone-like but have a purple colouring. The short soft needles grow in rosettes. The cones are egg shape NOT barrel shaped. The leaves are less than 1mm wide and of a bright green colouring.

Family:  Cupressaceae

Picea sitchensis (Sitka spruce) UK’s dominant plantation tree


Country of Origin: Alaska to N. California

Main Feature(s): It has dull blue-grey leaves with two pale lines underneath from tip to bottom. There is a peg left on the twig when a needle is pulled. 

Ultimate height: 60, sometimes 80 metres

Description: Narrow, flat like needles that are about 1 to 3 cms long. They are very prickly. Its flower, both male and female are quite large cone like flowers. They ripen from green to brown and are about 6 to 10cms in length. Hedgehog like leaf layout. 

Family:  Pinaceae

Picea abies (Norway spruce) Plantation tree in UK / dominant European conifer


Country of Origin: Europe and Russia

Main Feature(s): Drops its needles and used as a Christmas tree. It has needles of about 1 to 2 cms that grow evenly along the branch. Bright green needle colouring. 

Ultimate height: to 50 metres

Description: This tree has male and female flowers on the same tree. The female flowers produce pendulous greenish cones up to 15cm long. When needles are rubbed, it gives a Christmas rich smell, and also leaves a peg when pulled. 

Family:  Pinacea

Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas fir) Plantation tree in UK on brown earths


Country of Origin: Western North America

Main Feature(s): The cones have a feathery 3 pointed bract down the middle. The female flowers are tassel like and are borne at the end of stems.  

Ultimate height: up to 62 metres

Description: The needles twist in all directions and are long, flat, narrow and are about 3cm long. They have a sucker like base. Buds at the end of most stems, and the needles have a deep bottom vein and either side it is paler. 

Family:  Pinaceae

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